On Film: When “The Great Beauty” Is Not Enough

Zingarelli_007Just weeks before the Academy Awards, Jim Zingarelli, professor of art, offers his response to one of the Oscar favorites in the category of Foreign Language Films, The Great Beauty:

Art, Memory, and H. Richard Niebuhr: Seeing Paolo Sorrentino’s Film The Great Beauty

By Jim Zingarelli

E’ Cusi.   I refer to it as Italian fatalism, expressed most succinctly in a shrug of the shoulders with both palms out, full eye contact, and the expression “e’ cusi”—as in, “that’s just the way it is.”  You’re born, you grow up, fall in love, have a family, and eventually you die.  E’ cusi.  Fellini gave us La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) which was anything but: Maestroani and Ekberg embrace in the middle of the Trevi Fountain in the middle of a Roman night in the middle of a beautifully tragic temporality betrayed in the blank gazes of the marble gods.

Paolo Sorrentino now gives us La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty), a film that introduces us to Jep Garmbardella (played wonderfully by Toni Servillo).  Jep is a Roman celebrity, a journalist, who parties hard among the fashionable elite of Rome. At 65, he has not written anything of note since his much-acclaimed novella “The Human Apparatus” was published some 40 years ago.  We enter Jep’s birthday bacchanal: a multitude of dancing, grinding, bedazzled bodies in various throes of ecstatic pleasure (much of it chemically induced) moving to a pulsating track driven by bass and drum. Sorrentino openly shows us the decadence but does not dwell on it. This, indeed, is Jep’s perspective. In fact, none of it possesses much sensual shock or titillation anymore: “A few days after turning 65, I realized that I can’t waste any more time doing things I don’t want to do. “

Jep’s world is cinematically framed by Sorrentino employing the spatial limitations of balconies, balustrades, and stairwells.  Even the hammock is a net that Jep must struggle to rise from.  His apartment overlooks the Coliseum, a broken down oval of ancient Roman spettacoli, riddled with holes, filthy, and another reminder of an ancient past that some Italians find historically oppressive, even a barrier for any kind of creative innovation. It has become the anti-inspiration.  Is it any wonder that at the dawn of the 20th century, Marinetti and his Futurist cohorts wanted to send all of the Veronese, Titian, and Tintoretto paintings “floating down the canals of Venice” to be finally rid of the past’s ostentation in order to blaze a new world?  DeChirico’s surreal pictorial response to this was a stagnant Italy among its columns, arches, and broken statuary.  A train passes, but let’s face it: in a painting nothing really moves.  Nothing is actually heard.

”Something happens in Rome. Nothing happens in Rome,” Jep states flatly. He speaks the truth and has no qualms about confronting anyone else with it. A performance artist (whose work involves her running headlong, naked, into one of the arches supporting an ancient aqueduct) attempts to provide yet further shock tactics in her post-performance interview. She instructs Jep to write about her sexual exploits, her extreme behaviors, but he presses her with questions about artistic intention (and integrity?): “Again, what did you mean by ‘vibrations’?” he asks. She simply weeps, ”I don’t know.” Continue reading

This Just In: Gordon Faculty Continue to Offer Public Scholarship

Even at the start of a new academic year, Gordon faculty members are contributing their gifts and scholarship to the broader community in a variety of ways. Below is just a sample of what’s been happening lately for some professors outside of the classroom:

Tal Howard, professor of history and the executive director of the Center for Faith and Inquiry, wrote about The Promise of Religious Colleges for the leading web site, Inside Higher Education, which they published Sept. 19.

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) published a story Sept. 21 on the Accessible Icon Project that features Brian Glenney, assistant professor of philosophy, and his work with that project: Is it Time for a New Wheelchair Icon?”

Ruth Melkonian Hoover, associate professor of political science and international relations, is a featured panelist this week at the John C. Danforth Center on Politics and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis, addressing the topic of Welcoming the Stranger: A Panel Discussion on Religion and Immigration. She will also be the keynote speaker for the Zylstra Symposium on Politics and Culture at Redeemer University College in Ontario, Canada, this week addressing the issue of “Proximity, Globalization and the Common Good.”

Wm. B. Eerman Publishing Company released the new hardcover book, “Through Your Eyes: Dialogues on the Paintings of Bruce Herman”co-authored by Bruce Herman, Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in the Fine Arts, and G. Walter Hansen. One reviewer calls Herman one of the “wisest practitioners of art today and Hansen one of the key influencers and patrons of Christians in the arts.”

In the September edition of the national Green Chemistry Commitment, Irv Levy, professor of chemistry and computer science, as well as Gordon’s green chemistry program were featured in an article called “Gordon College: Transforming chemistry through the next generation.”

Painting a Poem: Herman on Eliot

Bruce Herman

Out of a dinner conversation between artists and friends, a unique collaboration of “poetry, paint and music” was born. QU4RTETS, a touring exhibit featuring the paintings of Bruce Herman, Gordon’s Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in Fine Arts, opens in the Gallery April 13 and runs through May 1. Here’s how Herman describes his work in his artist’s statement:

“My work here is painted in parallel form to T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets—not as a direct illustration of specific lines. I’ve steeped in the beautiful language and imagery of the poem but avoided attempting a visual equivalent of Eliot’s text. I’ve tried rather to find a fitting means to respond, in the medium of paint, to the same realities that moved the poet.

“Eliot’s ideas on cultural memory have been a guiding light to me over the course of four decades as I’ve tried to bridge traditional figure painting and modern abstraction—looking for an objective correlative (Eliot’s term) in order to achieve significant emotion in painting. He emphasized the necessity of submitting oneself to tradition in order to make something authentically new, and this resonated deeply for me growing up in the 1960s, an era of massive cultural upheaval.

“In this collaboration with Mako Fujimura and Chris Theofanidis, I am addressing an old painterly tradition: the Four Seasons and Four Stages of life (implicit in Four Quartets). I’ve also interacted directly with Eliot’s use of the Four Elements—earth, air, fire, and water—especially as seen in ‘Little Gidding,’ in which Eliot employs Dante’s terza rima style to create a set of meditations on death and resurrection (‘This is the death of air’ or ‘This is the death of water and fire’). I’ve also tried to point toward the mysterious ‘fifth element’ (quintessence) known to the classical and medieval mind as the æther, that element believed to suffuse and enfold all things.

“Working with the rule of four, pointing toward the fifth element, I’ve laid out a gold and silver grid that is interwoven with every other layer of the paintings. This grid functions both as a time signature and, because of the unpredictability of the light reflections, as an emerging temporal narrative both inside and outside of the painting (the viewer completes the work with his or her reflection—in effect giving me a chance to disappear as author of the finished work). As the light changes or one passes in front of the image, the reflective surface of the gold and silver shifts, bending the light and invoking that liquid, spiritual light in which we live and move and have our being––the quintessence or presence of God.

“I’m grateful to Mr. Eliot for leaving behind a path I could follow in order to locate a place of ‘complete simplicity costing not less than everything,’ to bear witness to the very same hope that is repeated twice in the poem in the words of Julian of Norwich: ‘And all shall be well, and / All manner of thing shall be well.’ A costly hope that is only possible, in Eliot’s setting, ‘When the tongues of flame are in-folded / Into the crowned knot of fire / And the fire and rose are one.'”

Bruce Herman Featured in New Book on 100 Boston Artists

When he’s not painting in his studio, Bruce Herman, Lothorien Distinguished Chair of Visual Arts, is guest lecturing on art and hospitality, writing for numerous publications, speaking at conferences or curating exhibits, including Gordon’s own gallery in the Barrington Center for the Arts. During the 2011-2012 academic year alone, Herman spoke on the theology of art in convocations and panel discussions at institutions such as Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, Whitworth University, College of the Ozarks, Park City Presbyterian Church in Dallas and Christ Church-Hamilton, MA. Of course, he’s guest lectured in numerous classes on campus as well while continuing his painting and mentoring.

No wonder Herman was honored in May as one of 100 recognized artists in the region.  In a new book called 100 Boston Painters —which “celebrates the wide-ranging talents, approaches, and personalities of the vibrant world of Boston arts”—Herman is featured for his work and contributions. Each artist was selected for the book after an extensive review of Boston arts, both past and present, and includes brief statements of the artist’s work.

By the time the book was released, Herman was already on to a new project: Continue reading

Summer Scholar: Salzburg Symposium & Program Explores Dynamics of Sacrifice in European Culture

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters. 

Tom Brooks

Gregor Thuswaldner

Five Gordon professors will return to Austria July 9-August 13 for the second annual symposium of the Salzburg Institute of Gordon College with the University of Salzburg. Co-directors of the Institute, Thomas Brooks, professor of music, and Gregor Thuswaldner, associate professor of German and linguistics, along with Susan Brooks, professor of music, Jim Zingarelli, professor of art, and Pamela Thuswaldner, adjunct professor of German, will also teach in the summer school program, which includes classes, tours and the international symposium. Here’s how Thuswaldner and his team of organizers described their call for papers:

Making Sacrifices: Visions of Sacrifice in European Culture                                                                       University of Salzburg, Austria; July 31, 2012

Much like Italian premier Mario Monti did at the beginning of December, politicians are increasingly calling on citizens to make sacrifices for the future of their countries. Such public invocations of sacrifice place politicians and their constituents in a state of tension at least partly because of the difficult and often contradictory connotations of sacrifice. Sacrifice, a concept of religious provenance deeply embedded in European culture, can mean to offer for destruction and to make amends, to hurt and to heal, make whole, or sacred. Such oppositions at the heart of sacrifice make it a dangerous and much-fraught concept, as well as a fruitful and powerful one in numerous spheres of culture.

This year’s symposium of the Salzburg Institute of Gordon College is dedicated to investigating notions of sacrifice as they appear at important junctures of European culture, past and present. The following questions, among others, will be considered: Continue reading

Painting for Character . . . and the Next Generation

DSC05079Last Tuesday, December 14, Tanja Butler, professor of art and painting, took her 13 students from Painting 1 to Harrington Elementary school in Lynn. Their final ‘exam’? To see their work displayed in the foyer of the school. Six Pillars of Character were the result of ongoing collaborations with the school, Gordon in Lynn partnerships, and other Gordon professors and classes. Writes Butler on the process: “I’ve been working with Jean Sbarra-Jones, our adjunct design professor, and Tim Ferguson-Sauder, creative director at Gordon and adjunct professor, to create banners and paintings for the Harrington Elementary School entrance hall. The pieces are designed to reinforce the character-building themes built into the school curriculum, and to add color, warmth, and energy to the entrance area.

My painting students worked with Jean’s communication arts department design students to develop the painting subjects and designs. The designs were then painted by the Painting I students, critiqued for further design development by the comm design students, and were completed by the painting class (by God’s grace!). Tim Ferguson-Sauder provided text banners to identify the character traits and present the school slogan.

DSC05051Along with Val Buchanan of Gordon In Lynn and Gordon’s Center for Community Engagement, we installed the paintings on Friday and had the official unveiling on Tuesday with our students and members of the Harrington community. We’re so grateful that the Harrington School has said, ‘our walls are open; use your gifts to invest in the next generation.’”

An Artist Talks of Devotion

God Comes to DinnerDuring Faculty Forum, Wednesday Nov. 10, 4:30 pm, Jenks Library, Tanja Butler, associate professor of visual arts, will present a talk on: “The Hospitality of God: An Artist’s Analysis of Devotional Imagery.”

To see selected work from Tanja’s portfolio, click on the picture to the right.

“Host and Hunger” Featured in Online Facts on World Hunger

zingarelli_2008_08_15_11_18_35Images of Jim Zingarelli‘s sculptures from his “Host and Hunger” exhibit are featured this month in The Rotarian’s online story that sheds light on issues of hunger both nationally and internationally.

Zingarelli, professor and chair of visual arts, created the pieces from a variety of stone as a way of answering the question: “How do I make art out of a social conscience, without it becoming propaganda or overly sentimental?” He exhibited them at Gordon two years ago in the Barrington Center for the Arts gallery.