Pilgrim Path

This blog is the work of a seeker and poet. Walking stick in hand, I head out into the world, not of the world, but in the world. My words and my friends carry me along and light the pilgrim path of spiritual journeys.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

LUMA

LUMA – what a great name for an art museum! It is in fact an acronym for Loyola University Museum of Art, located on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, in the heart of a world famous shopping district. Down the street from Giorgio Armani and across from the vertical mall known as Water Tower Place, LUMA holds its own in offering pleasures for the senses.

Two special exhibitions are running concurrently: The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama and Hidden Wholeness: The Zen Photography of Thomas Merton.

The Dalai Lama exhibit is the more extensive one in every way imaginable: bigger (a 20ft inflatable reclining Buddha), bolder (riotous colors) and brasher (a video wall of Buddhist monks pictured from the head up). As you’d expect from an exhibition of 80 artists inspired by the Dalai Lama, there were a wide range of visions utilizing a broad variety of media.

The Thomas Merton exhibit was the one that first drew my attention and prompted my visit to the museum. Beginning in 2001 when I spent my first week-long retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky (home to Thomas Merton), he has been a continuing influence in my life.

In stark contrast to the Dalai Lama exhibit, the photographs of Thomas Merton are humbly displayed in a long, narrow hallway bereft of any extraneous noise and light. Black and white photographs lined both sides of the hallway. It wasn’t until later that it occurred to me that the display was set up almost like the Stations of the Cross in a church nave. This provided the perfect atmosphere in which to consider these simple, yet complex photos.

The exhibit includes photos taken exclusively at the Abbey of Gethsemani and provides a glimpse of the ordinary – trees, woods, ponds, plants, chairs and water pails. Merton, by capturing these everyday items in black and white, provides us with the opportunity to see these items in a larger than life manner.

A wonderful addition to the exhibition is the inclusion of pertinent quotations from Merton’s vast library of written works along side each photograph. The simple quotations along with the deceptively simple photographs combine to illuminate each other. For example, displayed alongside a photograph of an overturned willow basket and its long shadows in late afternoon sunlight, you’ll find the following:

I am Silence,
I am Poverty,
I am Solitude,
For I have renounced spirituality to find God

- The Sign of Jonas, 1953, p. 326

Another photograph depicts a blooming tree in early Spring with the last traces of snow still on the ground.

The eye wherein I see God,
is the same eye wherein God sees me.

- Zen and the Birds of Appetite, 1968, p.57
Merton quoting D.T. Suzuki quoting Eckhart

I haven't checked into this yet, but I understand that Merton recorded his impressions of using a camera as a means of expression in a book titled, Turning Toward the World.
Sounds interesting!

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Sacred Art of Living said...

Both of these exhibits sound great! I wish Chicago weren't so far away. . .

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rich,
Thanks for the great, insightful review. You've inspired me to try to get there before the exhibits close!

11:15 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

Thank you for posting this. It looks like the LUMA has more interesting exhibits in the near future too.

7:16 PM  

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