Another One Bites the Dust (but that’s okay)

I am well aware of what things babies and toddlers can ruin (mostly their parents sex lives…Hi-oh!) but there was a news story recently about a toddler ruining something that is created to be destroyed. Here is the article:

Toddler Destroys Monks’ Work

In Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, mandalas are a sort of blue print for the universe, filled with orderly geometric shapes along with patterns and sometimes even different Buddhas (yes, there has been more than one) or Bodhisattvas. A sort of meditation piece, a mandala is inviting the viewer into this drawing and, much like stained glass windows in Christian churches, the image is not meant just to be pretty but is meant to draw the viewer closer to understanding the order of the cosmos. Also like stained glass images, mandalas are based on spiritual scripture and the monks making the mandala must be completely knowledgeable about the text.

Continue reading

Surrogate Mary

(Warning: This may be the most personal post yet. Don’t worry, I won’t take it too seriously.) Recently I signed up for a class titled Great Religious Art: From Sacred to Spiritual.  It would not be possible for me to pass up a class with that kick-ass title. It’s got art! It’s got religion! It’s got a professor who drinks wine in class (not joking)!  It’s about to have a student who drinks wine in class (that’s me)! Continue reading

Mo’ Mosques!

I was really lucky to study art history in college, as it put me on the fast track to a rewarding, well-paying career. Sarcasm aside, my favorite part of studying art history was seeing how other religions combine aesthetics with worship.  One of the most interesting classes I took was an Islamic Art & Architecture, taught at SFState by Santhi Kavuri-Bauer who recently wrote a book on Islamic art in India. (Buy it here or at your local bookstore that frankly needs your money more.)  Here are some interesting facts I learned about mosques, including some specific places.

  1. The first mosque was constructed next to Muhammad’s home. People would pray facing the qibla wall that originally faced towards Jerusalem and now faces towards Mecca. This mosque served as a community center, a court, and a religious school.  In fact, as Islam spread, the mosque was the first building established in a city because it was the center the Islamic life.  The second thing built: a Starbucks.
  2. So you probably know that Islam doesn’t allow for the image of Muhammad to be depicted so you can already guess that the decorations of a mosque are different than Christian churches.  But some beautiful decoration in a mosque is the calligraphy.  In the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the writing inside includes a passage about Jesus and his mama Mary.  Jesus is recognized as a prophet in Islam and his connection to Jerusalem is important.  It also includes a message about God not having a son. Some scholars speculate this text was important in the Dome to help converts from Christianity who had learned Christ’s teachings know his importance to Islam but to also point out “Yeah, that whole ‘son of God’ thingy? We don’t really follow that here.” (Check it out online here.)
  3. The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, was once a Byzantine basilica.  Currently, the Hagia Sophia is a museum.  (Another cool fact about mosques: Muslims had no problem reusing existing buildings or repurposing materials from destroyed buildings to make their mosques, thereby making them an earth friendly religion!) The juxtaposition of Islamic calligraphy combined with Christian imagery earns the Hagia Sophia a high ranking on places I whine about not having yet seen.  (Check it out online here.)
  4. The minbar would be sort of  like the Christian pulpit (but not really). The person leading the sermon will ascend some steps up the minbar but never goes fully to the top because that is reserved for the Prophet Muhammad.  One of the most beautiful minbar is from Kutubiyya, a wooden minbar with such intricate carvings that scholars are not 100% sure how they made such small features. (Read about it here.)
  5. The Mosque/ Cathedral of Cordoba, Spain is so visually stunning that the history of the building gets a tad lost when looking at it.  Once again, it was built first as a temple, then converted into a church by the Visigoths then rebuilt by the Umayyads into a mosque.  The Roman columns (going environmentally green again) hold up the stone and red arches in a mesmerizing fashion.  Not necessarily a place high on my list to visit, but if I am ever in Madrid it would be worth the train ride to see this. (Go here to learn more.)

(A little disclaimer here for any Muslim readers: I mean no disrespect with any misspellings of Muhammad’s name or parts of the mosque.  For any non-Muslim readers: I mean no disrespect with any misspellings of Muhammad’s name or parts of a mosque.  If you continue reading my posts, I mean no disrespect with my bad grammar and over-punctuation.)

Image Is Not Everything

So I am in Florence, Italy, right now (nun count is 2; see I Fucking Love Nuns) and I have seen a ton of paintings of Jesus in the last three days. I have seen Jesus as a baby and as an adult with blood coming from his sides. I have seen Jesus on the cross and Jesus coming down from it. And, no matter what the adult Jesus is doing, he looks almost the same in every painting.

Continue reading

A Tale of Two Pietàs (or is it Pieti?)

George Bernard Shaw once said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Michelangelo did not waste either his youth or his later years. I want to compare for you two different pieces of his that I think reflect the spiritual journey we all (if we are lucky) desire to experience in our lives. The two pieces of Michelangelo’s are The Pietà and The Deposition (aka The Florence Pietà aka The Bandini Pietà aka P-ah yeah!-ta).

Continue reading

Shoots and Leaves

If you ever get a chance to come to San Francisco, screw the flower in your hair but definitely bring a sweater.  Put on said sweater and head to one of my favorite museums in the city, the Asian Art Museum.  Every kind of Buddha and Hindu art is there along with some of the best special exhibits in the city.  There can be some lively debate about the artifacts in the museum, because technically many of the pieces were not created for aesthetic purposes, but instead for use in either religious festivals or as part of religious architecture.  Either way, it all rocks.

Continue reading