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A Fan-tastic Day

In Art, Making on November 8, 2015 at 1:46 pm

By Jacqueline Peveto

I am a cosplayer. My tools are grommets, super glue, papier-mâché and anything else that might not fit into your average conception of a sewing kit. I spend hours hunching over fabric, ripping out miles of seams, and brainstorming ways to defy physics. When I step onto the floor of the convention hall, I wear a disguise that tells everyone exactly who I am.

jackie comic con

Photo by Ariane Peveto

The word cosplay, a portmanteau of “costume” and “play,” is much more than a Halloween costume or dressing up. When someone builds a cosplay and wears it, it speaks to who she is, what kind of person she wants to be. A cosplayer’s job is to become a character. To put on not only that character’s clothes, but also mannerisms and demeanor.

There is a huge difference between buying a bagged costume and creating a functioning set of angel wings using a mad-scientist fusion of PVC pipe and crepe, between making do with available sizes and getting pricked so many times with a needle that the outfit could be a blood relative.

Through design, construction, and ultimately wearing the outfit, cosplay is a process of becoming.

I have made several costumes and competed many times, but nothing stretched my abilities as much as when I decided to become a Kyoshi warrior with my sister and a friend. The Kyoshi warriors are a band of fighters from the television show Avatar: The Last Airbender. They dress in emerald tones of the Earth Kingdom, don samurai-like armor and brandish fighting fans to serve and protect. They are skilled fighters, known and respected throughout their world as peacekeepers. They are defined by their devotion to honor, justice — and above all: no boys allowed.

In the show there are many iconic characters, but the Kyoshi warriors are some of the best: not only do they look awesome wielding their dual fans but they are also solid characters that help the protagonists in their journey.

As with any occasion where dress is stressed, there are certain expectations of female cosplayers, and not all of them are positive. Comic books, television shows, and other media have long set forward a standard of tight, unrealistic, or revealing clothing, as well as the “ideal” thin and trim body type for women. Because of this, female cosplayers often have to deal with unwanted attention and even harassment based on how they choose to dress.

It’s because of this that the slogan “Cosplay is not Consent” has recently become a loud voice in convention hallways, fighting the idea that female cosplayers have to accept inappropriate behavior because of what they’ve decided to wear. Sadly, at the convention, a place that should be a nonstop celebration of creativity, not everyone holds the same respect for his or her fellow cosplayer.

The Kyoshi warriors and their long skirts, robes, and armor certainly don’t fit into the mold of pinup models, but that made it all the more important to me that we do our very best to represent these characters well.

We were excited to embark upon this project. Each member of the Kyoshi warriors has variations to her uniform—a design on the headband, a particular hairstyle—that make her unique, so it was easy for each of us to create our own warrior.

Conceptually the outfit was simple, but conversion from two-dimensional animation to three-dimensional reality presented a few hurdles. After running our hands over every bolt of fabric in every fabric store in town, we decided on colors, and guesstimated how much we might need. Patterns were cannibalized and adapted to create the right look for the long, full skirts and robes that would be worn under the armor. For that, we cut out craft foam and covered it with faux leather, overlapping several pieces to make panels. We made molds for round seals that would be superglued to the gauntlets and painted them gold. For the headbands, we treated craft foam with several layers of watered-down craft glue to make it stiff and then buffed gold paint onto the designs.


Photo by dmgice

These costumes went through several renditions after being tested at a few conventions. We made revisions so that the armor took on the more fitted, feminine shape that the show has, and probably most importantly, so we could actually sit down while wearing the outfit.

Despite some cosmetic changes, our cosplay made an impact the first day it was worn. People noticed us the moment we stepped out of the elevator and we couldn’t move for ten minutes while our picture was taken by over fifty people. Everywhere we went, someone asked for a picture. Our fighting fans, made for performances, create a powerful snap when opened with a sharp flick of the wrist. Every time we stopped to pose, fans snapping open in unison, the sound would call to people all over the convention. Our presence was certainly noticed! We could hardly walk anywhere without being stopped for a photo, and as we started to move again, a girl in cat ears or a cosplay Spiderman would hold up a finger, international convention language meaning “Okay if I take one more?”

best in show

Photo by Brittany Cunningham

As we moved through the halls, people responded to us. They straightened up and changed conversations, getting their act together while the Kyoshi warriors were on the scene. This is the magic of cosplay—when you bring something fictional into the world and pour yourself into it, people cannot help but react as if it’s real. Even though I knew I was just a simple college student, as people instinctively moved aside or respectfully made way, I felt like a true enforcer of justice.

It was not until Denver Comic Con 2015 that we decided to compete with this cosplay. Costume judging and stage performance—or craftsmanship and the masquerade as cosplayers call them—are an essential part of a convention, and this year, we wanted to see how our work would stand up to the judges’ criteria. We finished our third revision days before my sister and I drove up to Denver with a stuffed garment bag, and a box filled with gauntlets, headbands, and tabi boots.

Getting dressed in the costume is a serious undertaking. The face paint is by far the longest part of the process. After gluing our eyebrows down with spirit gum and wax, we applied white makeup, with red and black accents around our eyes. It takes at least one other person to help put on the armor, strapping on the gauntlets, threading and tying off the armor laces, and fastening the shoulder pieces.

cosplay makeup

Photo by Jackie Peveto

That afternoon, by the time the last headband was tied on, we were almost late for our craftsmanship judging timeslot. We ran through the hotel, across the street and into the convention center. We darted through the crowds of Marios, ninjas, princesses, and superheroes on a mission, our faces set. People turned as we blew by, nudging their neighbors, squealing with delight, whispering, “Kyoshi warriors!” I couldn’t help but smile. We were being recognized again.

Judging as a rule, is always running late, so we had a minute to pull ourselves together before we were ushered inside. Three judges sat behind a long table. One of them, a lady in a classic Batgirl costume, said, “You guys look great!”

The other two were more reserved. They asked us a lot of questions about the process of making the outfits, what the armor was made of, how long it took to make them. As they looked at the sample pictures we provided on a tablet, we explained our creative decisions—choosing sage and forest green instead of jewel tones, crafting the armor with stamped brown leather to fit better with the organic colors of the Earth Kingdom, etc. They nodded through our explanations and asked to look at our hems and our fans.

They thanked us for coming in and as we left, one of the judges asked if we had a walk-on performance in the masquerade. We told her we did and she answered, “If you didn’t, I’d say go make something up right now.” The other two judges laughed and agreed.

Later, we sat in the green room while the masquerade organizers got everyone in order. We got to talk with a lot of the other competitors and ask them about their cosplays. One group had six people, dressed in elegant Viking-inspired outfits—the young woman seated near us explained that she had just been married and this was their wedding party. I got to talk with a corpse bride who was competing for the first time.

The masquerade is a different animal than craftsmanship. It is one thing to construct an outfit, build a suit of mech armor or craft dragon wings; it is another to get up on a stage in front of hundreds of people and convince them what they are seeing is real. Every movement and gesture will be under scrutiny by hundreds of devoted fans. The cosplayer selects music to play during her three minutes of performance. There might be a funny skit with exaggerated gestures, an interpretive dance, a gymnastic routine, or something else completely. The audience never knows what will come next.

Backstage we could see the silhouettes of the performers on the thin white scrim that separated us, shadows of what was to come. From the noise of the crowd, we could tell the room was massive and packed. At last, the three of us mounted the stairs and walked out from stage right as the MC announced the Kyoshi warriors.

Through the glare of stage lights and nerves, I could see hundreds of people stretching away out into the dark. They were cheering so loud, I barely realized our music had started without us.

We caught up with our choreography, which was a martial arts kata (training exercise routine) with fan forms put to music. Over the music, we’d put narration of our own voices.

“We fight for our people.” My voice sounded strange as it fell over the crowd.

“We fight for justice.” My friend executed a perfect fan form.

“We fight to protect this land.” My sister gracefully turned.

Together, we stood at attention. “And we fight,” we said in unison, “like girls.”

At that, we snapped open our six fans like an explosion of gold fireworks, and the roar of the crowd was deafening.

I don’t remember the rest of the performance. Suddenly, we were finishing with a bow and I looked up at the hundreds of people who couldn’t clap hard enough. Shakily, I crossed the stage to the stairs and we walked to our chairs at the back of the room.

kiyoshi perform

Photo by Cory Newman

During the intermission, so many people came up to us. Most of them were girls or young women, coming to say how much they enjoyed our performance.

“It was so cool! The thing you do with the fans,” one lady said, shaking her head.

“So awesome,” one young man said, throwing two thumbs up.

Several competitors told us the same, and because of the overall high level of dedication and creativity we’d witnessed, that was a high compliment.

Another woman stopped us to ask, “Have you taken martial arts?” She said that our performance was the first one featuring martial arts that didn’t make her wince.

“If you don’t win,” said one girl, “I’ll throw up.”

I couldn’t believe how many people talked to us. They kept saying how incredible it was. Some even looked teary. Several said they had been moved by what we had done.

Perhaps we surprised them.

As we talked with our fellow con goers I was beaming from ear to ear, despite knowing it was probably wrecking havoc on my face paint. After hearing what they all had to say, it didn’t matter if we won anything. Those compliments were more than enough.

There were several awards given for judge’s favorites, and special awards for different categories. We had seen the competition and there were so many incredible outfits, detailed cosplays, and thoughtful performances. I agreed with everyone who won craftsmanship or performance in their category, and clapped as loudly as anyone for the novice couple who wowed us with their fantastic Aquaman and Mera cosplay. No one could believe it was their first competition.

Our threesome competed at the intermediate level, which had the most contestants. The craftsmanship and performance awards in our category went to other well-deserving cosplayers. When the judges began describing the best group cosplay, I thought they might be talking about us, but that award went to the group ahead of us that did an acrobatic display. Last but not least was Best in Show—the award given for the best craftsmanship and performance. The spokesperson for the judges, the lady in the classic Batgirl costume, started talking about how impressed they had been by the choices made by this group, the quality of the work, and then an amazing stage performance.

“I think no one is surprised,” she said, looking out at the crowd.

The Kyoshi warriors won Best in Show!

kiyoshi costumes

Photo by Mike Goodell

The screaming around me was so loud that it ceased being sound at all. Bewildered and awed, we made our way up to the stage. The judge held out the trophy and being the closest, I took it without believing what I was doing. My compatriots were loaded down with our bags of posters, books, and other convention loot. We bowed, thankful to the audience, the judges, and for such an incredible experience. The cheering was so loud my ears rang.

To this day I still can’t believe that we won, but the trophy is here sitting on my desk. I’m honored to be part of a corps of creative engineers who come away from reading books, watching movies, and playing games thinking, “How can I make that outfit?”

I am still overwhelmed by the positive response we got. We showed them what we could do with our tools, our eyelets, lacing and craft foam, our imagination, time and passion. Even people who didn’t know what we were, recognized something in how we took the floor.

Three young women, three warriors, made a difference to so many people.


Editor’s Note: The 2015 Denver Comic Con received a tidal wave of negative media and social media attention because of a “Women in Comics” panel taking place, with no women on it. In contrast to that spin coverage, started from one small, though important event oversight (there were over 400 panels during the 3-day convention), this story covers a bigger part of the gathering. 

As well the excellent article below gives a balanced perspective of the convention from one of its organizers, a long-time woman in comics:

 I believe the strong feelings and reactions to this issue of women in comics reflects its critical importance. Accurate, honorable and creative representation of women and all people should in fact generate widespread and thorough discussion. 



Art, A Black Hole for Emotion

In Art on November 8, 2015 at 1:45 pm

By Daniel Rogers

This article was re-posted with permission from patienceandtime blog.

I recently realized that art is time. Often you hear the question: “How is that art?” Or the more steadfast, “That isn’t art.” Art is simply something that grasps time. Art freezes an emotion, a feeling. Art captures an element of an artist’s mind and expresses it in a way that is endless. Art must first be formed in your mind. You must incorporate inspiration as well as originality in order to create something new that has never been seen, but has been felt.

When your idea is formed you begin. You form your art without any regard for time. You never settle for something that will simply suffice, it must be perfect. You manipulate components until your art emerges. Your original idea is gone and your art is present. At this point you are exhausted, the excitement that an idea brings is gone. Now you are content, satisfied.

Next, you share your art, release it. Some choose to keep their art private, yet all artists want their art appreciated. Others now see your art. They are drawn in, they see beyond the instant, they see the work, the expression. The more they look, the more they can see and feel. The art inspires their mind to interpret. To them the art is new, it expresses unique feelings and memories to them alone.

Some will ignore your art, some will call it fake. They are not worth time. You create art to create time. A sort of black hole for emotion. Art is selective, it chooses its admirers. Everything is not art, but everything is art to someone. If you spend time with art that you hate, you’ll love it. It’s all about time — that’s what art is. Leo Tolstoy said: “The two most most powerful warriors are patience and time.” This is art.

Just a thought.


The author’s YouTube channel.


In Art, Censorship on February 5, 2015 at 9:27 pm

By Heila Rogers

Banned books week at the end of September got me thinking.

Do we get to say — to pronounce judgment on — what something we read, see, or hear means?

“It’s a matter of interpretation,” people say — which seems to mean that we get to decide.

For instance, someone could say that the classic children’s book Charlotte’s Web is about a selfish young girl who didn’t obey her parents. Someone could say that the story is about when she and some animals conspire to rob a farmer, who is in fact her own uncle. This band of “no-accounts” then proceed to undertake various deceitful methods to defraud the agriculturist of a pig.

But ~ is this what that book is actually about?! How do we tell?

Well reading the book for a start, is a good way to begin to examine what it means.

But even that doesn’t always work.

A reader can have such set-in-stone paradigm in their head the whole time that they’re examining words, that they won’t be able to see beyond that set perspective.


Photo by Mary Gregory

What about the author’s or artist’s intent?

Can we tell what something means, by examining that?

E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web, was thought to have written the book in order to imagine something in fiction: that he’d saved a pig that he wasn’t able to save in real life. He wrote about this in Death of a Pig in 1948, before he wrote Charlotte’s Web four years later.

When asked what the book was about though, White said the following:

I haven’t told why I wrote the book, but I haven’t told you why I sneeze, either. A book is a sneeze.”


Photo by Rachel Elizabeth White

The truth is probably complicated.

Writing or creating are never straightforward endeavors. There’s something mysterious about the process, something unknown even to the author, or actor,

painter, sculptor,


gardener, baker (what will happen when I combine these ingredients?),

or relationship forger…

There isn’t really a “why” sometimes when creating, there’s just an “it” – the end result.

Yet there are certainly motivations, experiences, questions and such that drive us to explore answers by creating, and in the creation itself.

Which I would hazard to say is always beyond us in some way. The creation itself is separate from us.


Photo by Mary Gregory

Back to books.

So, we can examine and ask questions of the author to explore a book’s meaning.

We can read and look with an open heart, on our own.

We can also look to others – we can explore commentary, scholarly opinion, literary analysis, etc.

Asking, “What do they say it says?”

We can analyze. Using our brains, our experience and our observational skills, and what we know emotionally to ring true.

Along with using some of the aforementioned methods of literary analysis, we can actually look at the words, sentences, and relationships between characters and find truth.

Will this truth be the same for everyone? To some extent, yes. Because the nature of truth itself is that it is stable, unchanging.

There is also the concept of the blind men and the elephant. Each man felt different parts of the creature and thus described it as being very, very different. But it was truly an elephant – all the parts taken together.

Are honesty and truth important? I mean, really?

Lies warp and destroy. Even when we think they won’t; even when we think they’ll be good and helpful, they aren’t.

The fact is, readers, lookers and listeners will each gain something unique from a piece of art (or even a conversation).

Check out these quotes about truth by famous artists:

Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things. (Georgia O’Keeffe)

A lie would have no sense unless the truth were felt as dangerous. (Alfred Adler)

A truth that’s told with bad intent / Beats all the lies you can invent. (William Blake)

There is such a thing as intentionally manipulating others through deception, however.

We might feel justified in this; we might feel that it’s for a good reason. We might feel we’re right. But the fact is, seeking to control others is wrong. Why? Because we people are too limited for that kind of power.

We’re not good enough, smart enough, or big enough for it. It ends up hurting ourselves and others.

I believe we need to yield to the fact of this weakness and acknowledge it, while also remaining aware of our abilities, gifts and value.


Photo by Mary Gregory

“The truth will set you free.” But will it?

The truth is, truth can still be found. Even among lies.

But does the truth care if we don’t believe in it? Is it still the truth, regardless?

What is truth?

We can’t just pick something and say, “this or that is it;” so we instead have to search and examine and discard and keep, and keep looking, until things click or make sense; until they “feel right.”

We have to ask others if our thinking is off, if we’re missing something. Asking, “What about this?”

We have to be okay with not knowing everything. We have to be okay with being too small to pronounce for everyone else’s (or our own) life what to do, how to be, or what is right all the time. This is where God comes in.

We have to know that we are not… God.

Truth is worth it. It’s another name for Beauty.

It takes vulnerability and honesty to search for it.

So, three cheers for Charlotte, spinning her web for her babies, and trusting Wilbur to help her.

Here’s to courage and honesty and friendship. Different aspects of the truth.


Photo by Mary Gregory

Photo by Mary Gregory

Mary Gregory Studio

Rest is Art

In Art on February 5, 2015 at 9:08 pm
Photo by Tammy Werner

Photo by Tammy Werner

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. – Aristotle

By Heila Rogers

How does creativity fit into life?

Do we need “the arts” as a part of life — or are they a waste of time?

I’m not the only one around lately who has been re-defining (or getting back to the roots of) creative pursuits — as being beyond the usual writing, drawing, acting or dancing — to also include, “household arts,” or “the art of the deal,” for example (that’s something I’d like to explore about!).

Anyway, humans are artists. So whatever we do can be done artistically…

It’s interesting to examine different historical people groups, and the role of traditional artistic pursuits like theatre, painting and music in their culture – and how these things paralleled or were involved with the rise and fall of different civilizations.

I was particularly interested to see what ancient and enduring texts had to say about the subject of creativity so I did a word search in an online Bible for, “creativity” and didn’t come up with much. Then I tried searching for different variations of the word.

In the process of this searching, I’d forgotten about the Creation Story itself, as it’s called.

THE very first words of the whole collection of books begins:

In the beginning, God created…” is Genesis 1:1

And then for several more chapters it’s all about Creation. You remember: the land and the water, the moon and the stars, the animals, the plants… “Let there be Light…etc.”

Somewhat surprisingly, I found rest a part of that first story of creation, too.

On the seventh day of creating, God said, “It is good” and rested. I really thought the seventh day was when the creating was finished. But it turns out the seventh day and the resting were on-going, integral parts of the whole.

It’s not like all the action happens during the physical-making-and-building parts of something. An awful lot happens during the rest periods too.

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.

— John Lubbock (English Biologist and Politician, 1834-1913)

Photo by Mary Gregory

Photo by Mary Gregory

Artists speak about a kind of resting — which is IN the act of creating:

Painting is a meditation that allows me to process the awe I feel for life and offer some expression of beauty to honor that.Linda Saccoccio

I find working with glass meditative, almost therapeutic, I can leave the world behind and focus… the simplicity of form, the drama of rich, intense colour, the joy of challenge, and the challenge of endurance. The piece, when it’s over, is not what is made, but how it’s made.Andrew Kuntz

It’s well-known that artists, writers, musicians, and well — people, have some of their best ideas when doing tasks like ironing, taking long walks, sitting on a park bench watching birds or children play, or washing dishes.

Some of those things are technically active but while we’re doing them, the mind rests in a certain way (if we let it). When doing those kinds of repetitive motions or tasks, our minds can generate some fantastic ideas; or problems can get figured out.

People still tend to define rest as being physically still, or even as sleeping.

Or people think it means clearing the mind.  Which is partly what happens when we do the above kinds of things — our mind empties out in a certain way.

So ~ physical, mental, spiritual are all connected…

Is rest defined as being free from worry?

In that case it’s got to involve putting that worry somewhere else, or onto someone else.

That’s why we often attempt numbness with TV, Netflix, Facebook, alcohol, social engagements, books, food or exercise. This is not an exhaustive list. We’re seeking rest. A break from our worries or our sense of responsibility.

All of these things can be good of course, but we can misuse them into distractions that steal our time from just Being.

How to do that tricky “just BEING” though?

Meditation or contemplation involves thinking about something to focus our mind.

We can picture a mountain lake, or a field of wildflowers. Or for some people, maybe imagining being underwater in the ocean is soothing and relaxing.

Photo by Tammy Werner African Church

Photo by Tammy Werner
African Church

This resting and ‘just being’ can be so scary though.

If we stop moving, who are we?

If we’re not what we do, who are we?

These quiet, peaceful times are the times though when it’s possible to hear God’s voice saying, “I love you.” When we can sense direction for our lives.

When we can picture ourselves opening our hands and letting go of every anxiety.

We can only do this I think though, when we know and trust Whom we’re giving these burdens to.

Just like a good friend who has been there for us through our most difficult times, if we understand God as our Friend we can rest in the presence of that Friend.

We can rest in the presence of someone who is still our friend and accepts us, even when we do stupid or embarrassing stuff. The kind of friend who might even perhaps laugh at us, but with affection; never harshly, or with mocking or meanness.

A friend is someone I can tell my worries to, someone I allow to hug me close. A friend is someone who knows me well enough to know when I need a hug, and when I need a laugh instead.

I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better. Plutarch

I picture God’s warm lap sometimes too. I imagine God as a loving, caring, nurturing and protective parent.

Why can’t a parent be defined as a friend also?

This concept and awareness can generate a deep and wide rest within.

From there in that safe, warm place I grow and fly ….. and create.

I recently pictured God as a loving, affectionate, fun  Mother & Father  swinging me in between them like a little child. I was holding onto both of their hands.

I rested in being loved.

I felt a sensation of flight.

Photo by Tammy Werner

Photo by Tammy Werner

 At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet. – Plato

Blending Is Art

In Life in Society, Music on August 5, 2014 at 11:02 pm
Photo by Laurel Greszler

Photo by Laurel Greszler

By Heila Rogers

The documentary 20 Feet From Stardom is about backup singers. Even that term, “back-up singers” can imply, “second-rate” in our minds.

Because people are supposed to be the one and only STAR, right? That’s what success means? For instance, if you’re 4th place in the Olympics, no one knows your name. Having your name known is what matters. “Second-place is the first-place Loser,” as the saying goes.

But the art, the creation of something, can get lost in that way of thinking.

What about the music itself, and all the parts?

All voices, parts and instruments melding together ~ to create a unified and transcendent piece of music – how to quantify that? How to determine its value?

Stardom isn’t bad though. Or is it?

Self-promotion is necessary, there’s a business side to things.

Promoters have a place.

“We can’t let the people decide, we have to tell them what they like, and what to buy.”

What the people often like and decide to buy on their own (is it the advertising or is it market-driven?) isn’t the most uplifting though.

But then again, it often is just that. People often see, buy and like what is uplifting — but it’s sometimes harder to find.

In the 20 Feet From Stardom movie, Sting says about these women:

“There’s a spiritual component to what they do, an inner journey, and any other success is cream on the cake.”

Photo by Heila Rogers

“Don’t Coppy M*” | Photo by Heila Rogers

Maybe we have to be ready to be the star, too. How to do that with grace and integrity, realizing we’re part of a whole — we’re a part along with others, we’re a piece of the bigger world. Not to mention eternity.

In many ways, this story of back-up singers is the story of women. Of being in the background, but maybe not by choice. Sometimes though, being in the background is a choice, both for men and women. There is an evolving awareness of the contributions and value of all voices, including those quieter ones, or those in the background.

When every one can share their unique piece with others as a part of the whole, then we’ll have the best, the most beautiful, music.

Also in the movie:

“It’s up to you to perfect that gift that you’ve been given.” — Stevie Wonder

Photo by Laurel Greszler

Photo by Laurel Greszler


In Military Life, Poetry on August 5, 2014 at 11:01 pm

By Laurel Greszler


Your world and mine

here and there

ticket to anywhere


Day one of deployment

is inbetween grief and relief

frustration and anticipation (resignation)


This word, spouse

tossed differently

between military and non


Here, it is —





retribute; and,

constant reminder

of the space


now and forever.

Photo by Julie Black

Photo by Julie Black

Thoughts on Beauty

In Art, Nature on August 5, 2014 at 10:51 pm
Photo by Laurel Greszler

Photo by Laurel Greszler

By Heila Rogers

There is such beauty and creativity in the natural world around us.

It makes me think, “Why?!”

What purpose is there to all that beauty and limitless variety? If things are just functional, for use, if life has no meaning beyond the grave, or beyond self-satisfaction or acquisition – then why should there be ten different varieties of colorful koi fish, or different multicolored hummingbirds? Those hummingbirds could all be gray (but also amazing), and it wouldn’t matter, if there weren’t some purpose to beauty. If one looks at life as if there’s no eternity we can somewhat appreciate the beauty of flora and fauna – but there’s no reason for it.

If we see natural beauty as a clue to the existence of an extraordinarily creative God, what does the beauty then also say about this possible Creator?

I think it says that this God is the ultimate Artist … and I think that it says this God is Loving. Because why else would the One who made them, make these myriad creations we’d enjoy, except that this God cared about us? And knew … that we’d draw strength, enjoyment, and even spiritual encouragement from looking at and seeing these beautiful things.

That we’d draw hope from experiencing the amazing way they live, and move, and have their being. I think it also means that this God can’t help it. This God is who this God is.

laurel - cobweb

Frosty Cobweb | Photo by Laurel Greszler

A person’s acts out of Who they are. We people are all flawed. So when we’re angry, sometimes we hurt ourselves or others. When we’re happy, we sometimes sing. This God acts out of Who and how this God is.

People say, “But bad things happen.” This is true. But I’m noticing that the bad things are perversions of the good. Nothing has been created bad in the first place. All human beings, even with perhaps deformed parts (which is all of us, to some extent) have beautiful, precious souls. Each blade of grass, each sparrow, each hair of our head matters and is beautiful in its way.

In the documentary film about his life, the unusual artist Wayne White has this to say about beauty:

It’s embarrassing.

What does he mean by that?

I think he’s touching on the grand, beyond-us, divine aspect of it. He’s explaining somewhat its power. He’s examining how we interact with it when we find it.

By beauty I mean the visual, emotional things that strike our eye, ear, nose or thoughts and we feel… comforted, amazed, speechless, satisfied or invigorated and calmed at the same time. We delight, and yet a part of us almost feels not worthy of it sometimes.

Photo by Blaize Wilkinson

Golden Aspen | Photo by Blaize Wilkinson

Love Is Creative

In Art, Creative Living, Music on February 15, 2014 at 6:48 pm

In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.”

― Rumi

long wingsBy Heila Rogers

Everyone Wants to Create (Something)

I’ve been to the Fair and people make all sorts of things … pies, cakes, canned goods, quilts, woodwork, monster trucks. Wait. Monster trucks? Yes, someone creates a machine that can do above and beyond the ordinary, and they create a moment when they race.

Once completed, why does beauty thrill us or make us tear up? Why do we get goosebumps when we hear certain music, for example? In the same way, why are we moved to tears sometimes when we witness someone helping in an altruistic, sacrificial way?

I think that what we are witnessing and experiencing are pieces of the same thing.

Acts of love are also different kinds of artistry.


There is also this:

Whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul. – Alice Walker

This sounds so good, right? And there’s truth to it. However, we can even manage to mess this up. This, “creating beauty” thing. For example, we can get addicted to what we see as helping people. We can go back and back again and again for the “high,” so to speak. For the experience of the positive feeling that comes with giving. We can make rules about it. We can judge others for not doing it, or for doing it worse than us in our opinion. We can formulate it to mean only this and not that. We can resist receiving, and be always the one that is giving. As usual with humans, we can take things too far. We actually get kind of creative about that: taking things too far.

Defining creativity is important. If it means stretching out to include others, but disparaging your close-by neighbors, teachers, or co-workers, then it’s not creative.

To state the obvious, destruction of any kind is not creation.

Unless perhaps it’s this:

Transform criticism into creativity.  – Scottie Hayes

Destroying destruction can be a creative act. I saw the above quote on Pinterest, along with the following comment: “HOW?” How do we transform criticism into creativity? What a good question. It sounds good, but what does it mean? Here’s one way how. Look around you at what is in your immediate life. What is there for you to do? What excites you? Make something. Make anything. Draw a picture. Sing a song. Smile at someone. Do this instead of tearing someone down. Do this instead of railing about the mistakes of others, or citing a list of what they do wrong.

“Let love be genuine. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good.”  Romans 12:9

“Only God is truly good.”  Luke 18:19b

“We love because God first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Receive love and give it away.

As it flows into you, then let it flow out.

When we feel love, and know we are loved, that’s a creative, building thing.

When we receive love, and when we give someone good, when we listen and are listened to, when we have fun, those are creative, building things also.

In the words of the legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland, even though she very much enjoyed and appreciated beautiful clothes,

“I mean, a new dress doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s the life you’re living, in the dress.”

In an essay, C.S. Lewis quotes Goethe who says interestingly, that all his previous “love” affairs were, “for my own ennoblement.” Lewis makes the case that those therefore might not have been “love” affairs. Can they have been, if they were for the so-called lover’s own benefit? Without it really being in sight, the benefit of the other person?

dive eagle

This is why when we see before us sudden, unexpected, great or seemingly-small acts of helping, giving or kindness … we are moved to tears. Because the giver has no apparent regard for herself.

I think this is creativity. A Love. An Art. And I think it’s related to the way we can be moved to tears by a beautiful piece of music. I would suggest that they are a part and parcel of the same, beautiful, perfect … loving.

Check out this creative video and music clip, featuring Hilary Hahn playing “Bounce Bounce” on the violin, playing with Hauschka, another musician.

Then, check out this video clip below of Olympian Derek Redmond after injury, continuing on to the finish line with his father’s arm around him.

Beautiful, both of them, no?

With friends you grow wings. – Rumi


The Science of Art

In Art, Life in Society on February 15, 2014 at 6:47 pm

By Stephanie Martin

E pluribus Unum: words we’ve all heard or read somewhere before. “Out of many, one.” The de facto motto of our nation until, “In God We Trust” was adopted, the phrase is on much of the money we all carry around in our wallets, purses, or pockets. Although physically present everywhere, it appears in conversation only when discussing the cultural, racial, or social diversity of America. However, it seems to me the phrase has an older application, older than our nation, older than its own language, Latin.

Lately, I have been thinking about this phrase because I have been thinking about the idea of “one” and the idea of “many.” And here’s why. In less than one year, I will graduate with a degree in biochemistry and will, subsequently, stumble into a world in which I am not sure I want to practice biochemistry. In fact, I am not sure I know what I want to practice. If you had asked me last semester, or even at the beginning of last month, I would have told you that I was going to apply to film school and get a graduate degree in English. Last August, I would have told you that I was going to apply to grad school for chemistry or biochemistry. My senior year of high school, I would have told you that I might be a zookeeper or doctor. My freshman year, you might have heard me say I wanted to be a cowgirl. You get my drift. I have been living in an identity crisis for as long as I can remember. Although I could blame my identity crisis on being the middle child, I suspect it has something more to do with the dichotomy of my brain. My left brain wants me to be a scientist. My right brain wants me to be a writer.

full mannequin

So what do you do when you are studying science and suddenly want to be an artist? Don’t ask me! I’ve been trying to figure it out for at least a year and made about as much progress as a snail on salt. It’s a slow and painful process, trying to figure out what to do with your life. You may choose one thing and find, three years into a degree, that you may not want to do that at all. Hypothetically, you may then choose something else, and focus on that for a while until, in theory, you visit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with your family and realize that you love science it’s your life and you could never give it up! There goes six months’ worth of plans down the drain!

Nevertheless, my love of art, literature, and writing has not dimmed. My interests this past year have felt like an oscillation from science to art to science to art again with everything in between. I ask myself audibly, “Why can’t you just pick one?!”

In a recent conversation with a friend, the subject of “art” arose. As soon as she said that word, my brain naturally connected that idea to all of the things I associated with art: painting, sculpture, film, theatre, poetry, literature, music, etc. Somewhere in the middle of the train of thought I realized that she had said, “art, as a way of life.” A beautiful idea I thought. Beauty in every part of life. I like it. It was then that something clicked. I was wrong. Art isn’t just one thing. It’s not something you can categorize. It’s not confined to that list that went through my head. Ironically, neither is science. Science seems to be systematic and fact-oriented, but it’s not just that. It’s a way of thinking and viewing the world. It’s more. That’s when it hit me. I don’t have to choose one thing to do with my life. I don’t have to do just science, or just art. I can do both. I can choose more than one. I can choose many, because life is more. It is more than one occupation or one hobby or one friend or one place. Life is more than one. But that is the beauty of life. Because from these many things, comes one life. E pluribus Unum.


Becoming a Life Artist

In Art, Creative Living on February 15, 2014 at 6:46 pm

By Heila Rogers

What if someone has a wonderful talent, and works to paint an amazing painting, mold a glorious sculpture, or write a magnificent, universal character?

Certainly that person as an artist is contributing greatly to society by adding beauty to it.

What if that same person cuts you off in traffic, exploits or curses others, or lies habitually?

What if someone else creates then in a different form? This one consisting of small gestures, or actions that make good grow in people’s hearts?

Someone say, who slows down without bitterness when they’re cut off in traffic, someone who strives to thank people and lift them up, someone who honors others with truths — like the one that they matter to the world?

Actually we all fall into both categories, I think. We’re all both creators and destroyers.

What I want to explore is how we can create in miniscule ways throughout each day. How we can all become better Life Artists. Weaving, or painting, or sculpting beauty and love  into and out of each day.

Although we all appreciate great art, don’t the small moments of kindness we’ve experienced in our own lives stand out more brightly? Can’t we recall moments of forgiveness, warmth, and sacrificial care more quickly than we can remember the best painting or movie we’ve ever seen?

So the question is, does Great Art – also consist of kindness, forgiveness and love?


Is beauty always a recipe that contains some measure of the above?

Back to the small acts and kindnesses.

I appreciate genuine smiles so much.

Even just “the dignity of notice” is something that is supremely valuable.

Watching the documentary, Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present made me think a lot about this kind of thing. Then I read an article about Fred Rogers of the PBS children’s show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, that made me think even more about how to create, by loving people individually.

What the artist Marina did, for this performance art piece was sit in a chair for hours at a time in a museum and face the person who sat in a chair opposite her. All day long, she did only this. She didn’t eat or drink during that time. She spent the nights during the show, drinking and going to the bathroom.

Although her motives for doing what she did are perhaps not completely clear, it is evident that she operated on a plane where she was seeking to receive and communicate truth. She was also willing to be uncomfortable in the process.

That was it. She met their eyes, she communicated as much as she could without words. She tried to “listen” to them on a deep level. She tried to see them. Just the act of giving attention was powerful. No touching or speaking was allowed.

Someone commented:

“She is treating each person that she encounters with the same attention and the same respect and that is pretty shocking.”

Isn’t it sad, that it’s shocking? That to, “treat each person that we encounter with the same attention and the same respect” is so unusual?

She and the others involved in different live art pieces actually prepared heavily in different ways for their performances. For example, they practiced being still and slowing down their breathing. They confronted things within themselves, in anticipation of being in front of people and offering up something. They spent a lot of time in silence, thinking.

I think that every person needs something like this, to be able to give to others in any way. We need strength from outside ourselves.

Another thing about this particular performance art was that everyone was watching the whole thing. People came to the museum to see the exhibit, which was two people sitting across from one another in silence.

Another aspect of note about it was that people practically hurt each other rushing into the museum, trying to compete to be the ones to sit in the empty chair.

My favorite moment is when two young kids replicate the performance and are cross-legged, sitting on the floor right there facing one another, staring. Of course they would copy the adults, but they also create something new of their own in that moment.

We can create in this way.

In contrast to the above, but with some of the same elements, check out the following private moment behind closed doors.

This excerpt is from a wonderful article written by Tom Junod in Esquire magazine, and it’s a story about Mr. Rogers and his minister whom he asks a favor of, and then includes the journalist in the interaction.

Mr. Rogers began creating the moment he met this journalist. He began looking at him and really listening. He tried to really see his life. He cared about him and expressed that. He also was simply himself in the process of interaction. Doing what he did in his own particular way, even when that could’ve been seen as geeky or peculiar. The article is entitled, “Can You Say … Hero?”

The below example to me, is an amazing one of the quiet art of living. Of being a life artist. Attuned to others and oneself, free in the knowledge of one’s value, and that one has the ear of God. After getting to know both the journalist and the minister, Fred Rogers was in a room with just the two of them, behind a closed door. They all touched.

The next afternoon, I [writer Tom Junod] went to [Fred Rogers’] office in Pittsburgh. He was sitting on a couch, under a framed rendering of the Greek word for grace and a biblical phrase written in Hebrew that means “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” A woman was with him, sitting in a big chair. Her name was Deb. She was very pretty. She had a long face and a dark blush to her skin. She had curls in her hair and stars at the centers of her eyes. She was a minister at Fred Rogers’s church. She spent much of her time tending to the sick and the dying. Fred Rogers loved her very much, and so, out of nowhere, he smiled and put his hand over hers. “Will you be with me when I die?” he asked her, and when she said yes, he said, “Oh, thank you, my dear.” Then, with his hand still over hers and his eyes looking straight into hers, he said, “Deb, do you know what a great prayer you are? Do you know that about yourself? Your prayers are just wonderful.” Then he looked at me. I was sitting in a small chair by the door, and he said, “Tom, would you close the door, please?” I closed the door and sat back down. “Thanks, my dear,” he said to me, then turned back to Deb. “Now, Deb, I’d like to ask you a favor,” he said. “Would you lead us? Would you lead us in prayer?”

Deb stiffened for a second, and she let out a breath, and her color got deeper. “Oh, I don’t know, Fred,” she said. “I don’t know if I want to put on a performance….”

Fred never stopped looking at her or let go of her hand. “It’s not a performance. It’s just a meeting of friends,” he said. He moved his hand from her wrist to her palm and extended his other hand to me. I took it and then put my hand around her free hand. His hand was warm, hers was cool, and we bowed our heads, and closed our eyes, and I heard Deb’s voice calling out for the grace of God. What is grace? I’m not certain; all I know is that my heart felt like a spike, and then, in that room, it opened and felt like an umbrella. I had never prayed like that before, ever. I had always been a great prayer, a powerful one, but only fitfully, only out of guilt, only when fear and desperation drove me to it…and it hit me, right then, with my eyes closed, that this was the moment Fred Rogers—Mister Rogers—had been leading me to from the moment he answered the door of his apartment in his bathrobe and asked me about Old Rabbit. Once upon a time, you see, I lost something, and prayed to get it back, but when I lost it the second time, I didn’t, and now this was it, the missing word, the unuttered promise, the prayer I’d been waiting to say a very long time.

“Thank you, God,” Mister Rogers said.

No one else saw or experienced this moment, even though we’re all now getting a chance to read about it. The moment itself however, was experienced between only those present. It was made possible by brushstroke after brushstroke, so to speak, of friendliness, of building trust and mutual enjoyment, of kind words and attentive actions and time spent together.


By Tom Junod – “Can You Say … Hero?”

Originally appeared in the November 1998 Esquire. Find the complete article here.