We should buy books and art for many reasons. One of those reasons is that books and art intertwine with our lives, become part of who we are; like friends they are with us always, like historians they tell our story.
Here is the tour of our art collection in our new apartment in Redmond, WA that I promised friends back in Indy. It is also a tour of my story through art.
Let me begin with our bedroom. The art that surrounds Jenny and I are paintings by my mom of those who our dearest and closest to us, our children Jacob, Julian, Judah, and Jackie. My mom captured each of their special “thisness”.
In our bedroom also hang these two acrylics, also painted by mom. One is of Jenny and I walking on the beach below our property on Camano Island.
The other is of my dad, my brother Jed, myself and one of our boys walking with our morning catch of salmon at Cluxewe Restort on Vancouver Island, BC. From Cluxewe I can see Sointula, a small island where at the age of 18 God opened my heart to Him. It is one of our favorite places to vacation as a family; at least one of mine, because of the salmon fishing there.
In the upstairs hallway hangs this watercolor I painted of the northern California coast and the mighty Redwoods there. Our family spent a week there with Jenny’s parent’s one summer and it is a place of sacred memory.
This painting of Judah, done by my mom, Ann Cory Dorsey, is in his room: Judah awakening us all with his trumpet, he still brings music into our family, but he’s not so little any more.
Now about to head down there stairs or at the top of the stairs, depending on which way you are going, is one of my sister, April’s, acrylics. She has a wonderful touch with flowers, among other things, and may be the most artistic of my siblings.
At the bottom of the stairs hangs art by my Grandmother, Sayre Dodgson. Sayre went to Art School in Philadelphia. She had real talent as these sketches show. But one day her brother said to her, “Sayre, you have talent but not genius,” She gave up her dream of an art career and went into nursing instead. I’m sad that she gave up on her art, but glad that she became a nurse and met my grandfather, and had my mom as one of her daughters.
At the bottom of the stairs is art by my Great Grandmother, Fanny Y. Cory, who was a well known artist in her time. She illustrated books, was featured on the post of magazines like Scribners and the Saturday Evening Post, and had a syndicated weekly cartoon that was a rival to Little Orphan Annie called “Little Miss Muffet.” She also painted a delightful series of watercolors in what is now a “Fairy Alphabet” book. Here is a copy of one of her magazine covers, very Norman Rockwellesque titled “The End of a Perfect Day” that sits at the entrance to our stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs and above my desk hang two very important to me works of art.
One is painted by my mom of her mother praying. Grandma Sayre lived to be 104. She prayed for me every day, and I’m sure much of who I am is due to those prayers. The other painting is by Kyle Ragsdale, the Curator at the Harrison Center for the Arts, and an elder at the church I pastored in Indianapolis, Redeemer Presbyterian. It was given to me as a gift when our family moved to Redmond, WA in 2015. It is a picture from one of our elder’s retreats at the “Palapa” beach house on Lake Michigan. It is a reminder of my dear friends, this band of brothers that I was privileged to walk with for 13 years.
We are now downstairs, and have turned the corner alcove in which my desk sits, and looking towards the window and balcony.
The first picture on your right is actually a photograph by my good friend, Paul Baumgarten. It is of an old door and handle. Paul did his graduate work in preserving stained glass windows, he loves old things, and is a gifted photographer. I tried and tried to take a photo of Paul’s photo that didn’t reflect, but because the mat and photo are so dark I could not escape the reflection.
After Paul’s photography comes this beautiful assemblage of art that we collected while at the Harrison Center.
I’ll take you through the pieces one by one.
The first work I purchased from a Harrison Center artist is this exquisite piece by Jan Zoya. I must have been missing the dark, brooding waters of the Pacific Northwest and this piece with sea and moon brought me home.
This piece by Nicole Caldwell is one of Jenny’s favorite. Nicole was a member at Redeemer, and an graduate student at Herron Art School, and a neighbor of ours. This is her rendition of the Tiffany Stained glass window that used to sit in the First Presbyterian Church (where Redeemer worshipped) and is now housed at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Jenny likes texture, and Nicole used corn kernals to highlight the arm of the Angel of the Resurrection.
These two images are by Kyle Ragsdale. The one on the right is a hip-hop/boy-band nativity scene. The other is a painting of Jackie asleep in my arms holding a heart. Kyle is a significant figure in the Indianapolis arts scene; I love his playfulness and immense creativity. During the different liturgical seasons of the year he would turn the sanctuary in Indianapolis into a visual, symbolic picture, emphasis different views of the great gospel of Jesus Christ.
This stunning piece is by a friend who passed away, Susan Hodgin. Susan was an incredibly gifted artist who had a studio at the Harrison Center. She nobly battled cancer, and left a sweet daughter and courageous husband behind. We mourn the creativity and beauty that was lost when she left.
Finally, this painting by my brother Jed. He gave it to me a couple of years ago, and when he did I cried. It is a painting of the hill overlooking the beach where we grew up on Camano Island. I love Jed’s city-scapes, but specially treasure this gift.
In our downstairs bathroom hangs this fun print of a painting by my great grandmother, Fanny Y. Cory.
As we turn towards the wall full of bookshelves, there is this narrow wall on which I hung three paintings that connect my love for everything water. Jeff Morton, Professor of Art at Covenant College, painted the moon encircled by birds which hangs on the top. Casey Roberts, one of my favorite Indianapolis artists, imagined the dark cliff silhouetted against the night sky. And Jennifer Cooper painted the adorable wooden boats.
We now come to the wall with books and art.
The first painting is this delightful watercolor of flowers by my dad. It was hung in the family art show the Harrison Center sponsored in October 2014 and I couldn’t resist buying it.
Next is this watercolor of apples by my sister April which traveled with us to Indy, and now back to the northwest.
There there is this big watercolor I painted of Zagorsk, the center of Russian Orthodoxy. I spent a couple of months in early 1992 in Moscow with my dear friends and mentors Peter and Anita Deynka.
The following painting has a fun story. It is of a catholic church in Montana. When my grandmother, Fanny, and her cowboy fiance nicknamed “Popsie” eloped, they came to this catholic church and to the priest there and asked to be married. Popsie was catholic, but my great grandma was Anglican. When the priest found this out he said that my grandma needed to become catholic or he wouldn’t marry her, to which she replied, that she wouldn’t do that then asked “Father, do you want us to live in sin?” He did not, so he performed the ceremony :).
On one of our family vacations in Montana we tracked down this old church and took photographs of the church. This smaller painting of the same church hangs on the wall next to the larger.
Here is another in the collage of church paintings, it is a church on a snowing day in Russia, a place which is absolutely magical in winter, and which will always have a piece of my heart. Interestingly enough, my son Julian has a passion for international politics, and an interest in Russia in particular.
This next painting, the Lutheran Church in Conway on Fir Island is dear to my heart, not because I ever attended it, but because her organist, Don Good, was my favorite teacher at Stanwood High School. Don taught drama, and his energy, wit, deep joy, and ability to draw people out of their shell, had a big impact on my life.
This next painting has always been one of my favorites.
I painted it in 1992, during a time when I was painting rather seriously. After I married Jenny, I took a year off seminary and lived on Camano Island where I interned at Camano Chapel. During this time I taught art at the Senior Center through Skagit Valley College as well as entering numerous paintings in national shows. This painting titled “My First Ballet” is from a photograph I took at the ballet “Juzelle” in Red Square, Moscow. It is a very dramatic scene where heartbroken and in a fit of madness, Juzelle dances back and forth across the stage. The scene was so stunning, the lighted figures against the dark curtains so dramatic, that I had to paint it. It one a top prize at the San Diego International Watercolor Society Show.
Last but not least is this oil by my good friend Barb Knuckles, a member of Redeemer in Indianapolis. It is of a part of the War Memorial Monument that sits in the center of Indianapolis. Barb gave it to us as a gift, and it is especially powerful as a picture of peace, of people coming together.
And what can I say of all the other art that hasn’t made it up on our walls in Redmond, because we have a prime place for it in the studio we are building on Camano Island. It includes art from perhaps the most gifted artist who had a studio at the Harrison Center for the Arts, Tyler Meunick. Two of his paintings are reserved for the studio.
A place in the studio awaits the wonderful hangings created by Chad Campbell. A gift from my friend Aaron Gardner is waiting its spot too. And perhaps my greatest disappoint is that I don’t have an artwork from one of my dear friends in Indy, and super gifted artist, Kipp Normand. But isn’t that the joy and purpose of art after all. One day I will have one of Kipp’s artworks. I wait for that day, and save for it. I can’t wait to have a part of Kipp with me in the place God has called me.
And that’s the tour of the art in our apartment. Much more, that’s a tour through significant moments in my family’s life and through my life history.
Ant that’s why Goethe was right when he said, “one should, each day, try to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words.”
And that’s why you should buy lots of art just like you should buy lots of books. They are like friends, going with you, reminding you of people, and places, and sacred moments. They are like mini-histories, and our lives are the poorer without them.