The Rich Story of Carved Lines

Usually the prints I make are deeply personal illustrations of my heart, vision and journey.  From the early days printmaking has been, to me, a form of prayer, offering up to the Father layers of concern and expression of things I do not often fully comprehend.  Within that context is a platform to explore the visualization of spiritual concepts, revelations and principles- basically a blundering effort to make the unseen seen on some level.  I wonder that I am taken up with making a “graven image”  and how that settles with the second commandment (Exodus 20 verse 4 if you are interested).  Hopefully, what I am making are objects that are doors or windows that might lead one into worship, certainly they are far from worshipful in themselves.  I take comfort that the Merciful One will ultimately be the judge of my heart on this one.

These images here, are a divergence in a way, in that, they are the mixture of my expression and visual language with the story and purpose of two other entities.  The first of those is Matt Eich of Mule Resophonic GuitarsHe has been building these beautifully crafted and, by all accounts, almost magically sounding guitars for five years now.  The resulting print will be the certificate of authenticity that will be presented with every instrument that he sells.  Matt is passionate about story and building rich relationships with his customers, and he invests personal expression into every instrument.  His sense of story has been woven together with mine here, I hope.

On a technical level, I am always in an attempt to push myself past where I was before in my work. It may only be in a way that is visible to my own eye. With printmaking I compose a design and I wonder if I will be able to pull it off- if the level of detail will translate as a small mammal, or a vine, or a bird- or just a confused tangle of ink. Many times it has resulted in the confused tangle. This print for Matt has tons of this risk built into the design, and I think his spirit has elevated me, because I somehow feel a door has been unlocked.  Of course, I really won’t know until the ink hits the paper- but there is hope that these tiny branches will be able to speak.

The second entity is the musical trio Sister Sinjin.  My good friend Elizabeth Duffy is part of this group of women who sing devotedly to the glory and love of God.  This image from this block will become the cover art for their upcoming record.  The contemplative spirit of their music really seems to offer a counterpoint to the industrious detail of the print I’m making for Matt.  I’ve noticed and appreciated the contrast as I have been working back and forth between these two blocks.  The quite offering of the woman and the persistent labor of the plowman.  Both have offered a lot of opportunity to grow and develop and express, and I am grateful.  There are many photographs of the carving process below, which is still underway in both cases, though I am nearly done with the Sister Sinjin block.

A Profile in Plough Quarterly

My family and our work were humbled to be featured in the most recent edition of Plough Quarterly.  There is a profile by Susannah Black, and a feature on Go On: Inner Man Version, an altarpiece I made back in 2003, and also an excerpt of my responses to some questions about our lifestyle, called Farming the Universe.  If you choose to take the time to read some or all of them, I sincerely hope that you enjoy them.

Go On, Inner Man Version, 2003, oil on wood panel, closed position
Go On, Inner Man Version, 2003, oil on wood panel, open position

 

This Dirt Is Older Than I, or Elizabeth Duffy’s Witness

Nigh on two years ago I received an email from Elizabeth Duffy, a writer from Indiana, wanting to ask me a few questions about my art for her blog at Patheos.  She sent questions and I sent back my answers.  It went on for three or four months like that, and trust was built.  In the end she shared our interview in four parts on her blog.  Meanwhile Elizabeth felt the fruit of our dialogue merited a wider audience, and she went in quest.  Image Journal took the bet, and Elizabeth went to work.

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I owe a debt to Elizabeth, but not necessarily for publishing an article about me in a magazine, although, that too is cool, and I expect that the measure of artistic validation it lends me is not insignificant.  It is for her time and her witness that I am grateful, it is for her trustworthiness.  I suspect most artists wonder, like me, if all the labor and turmoil that goes into making art, which purports to have emerged from a deep place in the created heart, is not the dead end of futility that it so often seems to be.  I know at least that it matters to Elizabeth, so much so that she built a soap box and voiced it to as large an audience as she could muster.  More sacred, she proved her trust with those treasures in my heart which I was able to share with her.  That carries weight.  Thank you Elizabeth.  You came along side me and we plowed together.  We even made the cover.

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You can read the article online if you wish, or even buy the whole journal it here.

With genuine authenticity (I know it’s redundant) and authentic hunger, Elizabeth writes for a variety of different outlets, including Image Journal’s blog, Good Letters.   The best place to start and catch most of it, is at her personal blog.

Holy, the Lesser Saints

holy, the lesser saints35
the lesser saints
holy, the lesser saints06
weave their quiet
holy, the lesser saints43
agile stories
holy, the lesser saints09
amongst the lives
holy, the lesser saints05
of greater lights
holy, the lesser saints27
holy, the lesser saints
holy, the lesser saints03
the color
holy, the lesser saints07
upon their brows
holy, the lesser saints48
they do not cry out
holy, the lesser saints04
they do not turn
holy, the lesser saints01
hearts raised like rafters
holy, the lesser saints02
heavenward
holy, the lesser saints15
forever orbiting
holy, the lesser saints12
tireless in quest
holy, the lesser saints18
the sphere of your glory
holy, the lesser saints10
to enter and remain
holy, the lesser saints08
bring newer life
holy, the lesser saints29
from ancient tribes
holy, the lesser saints39
all in anticipation
holy, the lesser saints14
groaning in the yearning
holy, the lesser saints17
their own eternal ribbon voice
holy, the lesser saints22
those who have ears…
holy, the lesser saints26
let them hear
holy, the lesser saints11
holy, the lesser saints
holy, the lesser saints24
bring your longing
holy, the lesser saints20
bring your capacity
holy, the lesser saints28
for fullness
holy, the lesser saints40
in the life of the soil
holy, the lesser saints34
countless prophets
holy, the lesser saints45
behold and know
holy, the lesser saints33
see and have understanding
holy, the lesser saints21
awaken, members of wholeness
holy, the lesser saints23
you are provision
holy, the lesser saints25
you are appointed
holy, the lesser saints30
little lights, you are His
holy, the lesser saints32
lesser saints
holy, the lesser saints36
holding up mountains
holy, the lesser saints13
echoes of distant voice
holy, the lesser saints31
priests of the eternal present
holy, the lesser saints47
fierce and strange
holy, the lesser saints37
are the quiet ones
holy, the lesser saints42
in silent witness
holy, the lesser saints19
givers of the heart of God
holy, the lesser saints41
receiving and giving from the heart of God
holy, the lesser saints46
celebrating mystery in plain-ness
holy, the lesser saints44
in infinite variety and order
holy, the lesser saints49
teach the spiritual truths of rest and labor
holy, the lesser saints16
sweat and awe
holy, the lesser saints38
all from silent knees and horns
holy, the lesser saints50
in the unending world, glory will be known forever

Go On, Bezalel

Go On, Bezalel6

“See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills…” Exodus 31: 2 & 3.

Go On, Bezalel3Bezalel is kind of an early renaissance man, thousands of years before Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, or Durer.  More importantly he was faithful to God’s design of him as a craftsman.  He was  found worthy to build the design of God concerning the tabernacle and all of its parts.  As a craftsman and artist, it is hard to comprehend anything so significant to my earthly labors as to manifest on earth something that was authored in the very heart and mind of God.  Go On, Bezalel5

Go On, Bezalel7

Elizabeth Duffy asked me about influences and progenitors in her interview with me last year.  Here is an excerpt of my response pertaining to Bezalel:  I hope, maybe, to be in the line of Bezalel, who fashioned so much for the tabernacle, making the sacred things that were part of the “technology” of worship of His God for his community. Personally, I couldn’t ask for more than that. Bezalel is valuable as a paradigm of an artisan of broad experience and skill. He could work in many trades and arts with skill worthy of God’s Tabernacle. My good friend reminds me of the value of a man of that breadth of experience and skill in contrast to a culture that places a premium on experts of high degree in a single field. When I wonder if I am hurting myself by embracing so many disciplines, I am grateful for Bezalel and his place in God’s story, and a few other men I have encountered who are champions of excellence in this way.Go On, Bezalel1 The drawing, an imagining of a portion of Bezalel’s tent-workshop, started two or three years ago, finally over the past two months I was able to finish it.  It is composed along the lines of another drawing, Go On, Adam, Breathe.  An potential series of drawings?  The drawing to me feels so limited, compared to the vastness of what could be explored and depicted, as a task to learn about Bezalel, his labors, and his relationship to his God.

Go On, Bezalel4

An Interview With Elizabeth Duffy

detail of Go On, John the Baptist, oil on panel, 2008
detail of Go On, John the Baptist, oil on panel, 2008

Elizabeth Duffy has been posting parts of an interview she began with me last spring and summer.  To date, this interview consistutes the clearest and really, only articulation of the beliefs and values behind my work.  I hope that you will take the time to read it.  The interview will ultimately be posted in it entirety on this site, but for now, here is part 1, part llpart lll, and the final bit part lV.  Please take the time to read some of Elizabeth’s writing as well.  She is authentic, humorous, and insightful.  Her wit and self-effacing style reveal a woman on a significant journey with valuable things to say.

From the Dust I Came

CRY THE BLOOD

I began as dust, heavy with the sweat of God’s fingers as He formed my flesh;  a heap of particles still ringing from the sound of His voice.  His breathe came as a holy wind, compelling me to breath, myself.

“i am erth.”

In my senior year of high school, the man who had been my art teacher since fourth grade, gave me some advice.  I was struggling with the conflicting dreams of pursuing the hope of becoming a musician or studying to become a visual artist.  His counsel was simple and wise:  “you can’t do both.”  At that point of decision, it seemed that since I was largely a self taught musician, I could conceivably continue to be so.  Instinctively I knew that there was so much that I needed to be taught and learn and so much time I needed to devote to the disciplines of drawing and painting.  So, I chose art without regret.  The music, however, has never left.  I have outgrown (mostly) the delusions about being a famous musician.  It has become an intensely personal discipline.  It is a language through which I speak to my God and through which He speaks to me.  It is a language I bless my children with.  It is a language I use to share my heart with those that are close to me.   Times have changed and technology that did not exist or was just emerging when I was young has made it possible for me to share what I have largely kept to myself, my family and my close friends.  It was not an easy decision to share publicly what has been so private.  But this, I have done.

The name of the album is Cry The Blood.  The blood is Jesus’ and the cry is mine, though there are many quiet voices beside me.  I chose to recorded under the pseudonym, i am erth.  (The “a” is missing on purpose, a decision which spell check is relentless in punishing me for.)  The land is a passion of mine and a place of meeting and learning as I live as a son under God’s sky.  I am close to the erth, and it is never far from me.

For the curious:  I wrote the songs, sang all the parts and plucked every string, blew every note, squeezed every box, recorded, mixed and stabbed out every digital pulse.  It is far from perfect.  I blame myself for the flaws, you can decide if there is beauty in them. You can hear my kids, and my animals, the wind and the rain, creaks and clicks and bonks, and probably a freight train.  I’ll thank my friends who encourage me and hold me up in the testing. There is one among those who deserves more credit than any, but I know he prefers anonymity. If you want to thank him, eat a steak or go fly fishing in Montana.

Through the ideas and labor of many, this album will (if not already) ultimately be available for downloaded from major online music retailers. Below is a link to iTunes, where it is already available.

You may be interested in what Elizabeth Duffy has on her blog. Elizabeth is my friend, but she began as a stranger asking me questions.  She has been instrumental in pushing me to make the music available and has written a very encouraging review of as well.  In addition, Elizabeth has included a portion of her interview with me as a means of introduction.  It has been a rare opportunity for me to express what I believe and why I do what I do.  I couldn’t have voiced it without her asking and without the creative, sensitive and trustworthy nature of who she is.  Thank you, Elizabeth.

In a final bit of disclosure, I began an instagram feed early last fall.  While I still remain ambivalent towards much of the usage, I have come to value it as unique for sharing imagery and stories on a different platform and immediacy, it is kind of a microcosm of the posts I make here.  My user name is @baumwerkj if you are interested.

I continually thank you for your support here over the years. It has been 8 years since I began this blog. Your quiet interest has given me encouragement to continue working. All glory and honor will be and ever remain His.

Jack Baumgartner,  Rose Hill, Kansas Jan-19-2015