Iconia has moved

January 13th, 2010 by Menachem Wecker

I may come back to visit, but for now, Iconia has moved to the Houston Chronicle. Check it out at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia/.

Link on About.com

January 9th, 2010 by Menachem Wecker

I’m delighted to see that my article on David Levine is linked on About.com’s art history blog.

Interview: Kate Shellnutt, web producer, religion blogger, Houston Chronicle

January 9th, 2010 by Menachem Wecker

I first connected with Kate Shellnutt on Twitter (where she has two handles). I was very excited to be a part of her article “This Muslim-American life: Allah and the Arts,” which she wrote as a journalism student at Medill. Shellnutt has since graduated and now works on the Houston Chronicle’s religion page, where she continues to write on many of the topics which are most important to me. It was obvious that I had to formally interview here, and I think readers might find particular relevance and insight in her view of the role of religion reporters.

MW: Was there a particular experience or revelatory moment when you first decided covering religion was your passion?

KS: I don’t have a crazy story. I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I was little, and majored in journalism and religion in college (Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.). I’ve spent most of my life very curious about religion and very concerned about religion, but without strong ties to a single tradition. Studying and covering religion has given me the opportunity to explore a spectrum of beliefs. I have the chance see how different people experience the sacred, which in the end, is the most magical, special, meaningful thing we get to do.

MW: What is a day in the life of a web producer and blogger for the Houston Chronicle’s religion site like?

KS: Several times a day, I check up on religion news online: blogs, mainstream sites, religion-specific sites, organization reports and releases. I look for stories to localize, get background information and note any trends. I meet with religious leaders and attend events in the area to cover on the site. I also manage our team of pastor and reader bloggers, offering suggestions and helping promote their work on the chron.com site. And, what seems to be my least-fun job, I patrol our forums and comments for hateful and offensive remarks.

MW: What are some of the unique challenges and opportunities for religion writers?

KS: If you’re a religion writer, in many ways, you are THE expert in the room on matters of faith. The average person, even among the educated, doesn’t have impressive levels of religion knowledge and rarely has any helpful knowledge outside of their own tradition. I see the role of religion journalists to encourage their newsrooms to consider the religion angle on all sorts of stories, because it’s often helpful and relevant, but not the obvious way to go. They can help organizations deepen their coverage of everyday topics. Just this week, I’ve found religion angles to stories about Texas football, national politics the weather and celebrity gossip. The audience for mainstream news includes a great number of people of faith, and we underserve them if we don’t consider this dimension of life in our coverage.

MW: How seriously do you think religion reporters are taking religious art? Do they tend to view it as a source for soft, feel-good stories, or are religion newsrooms seriously considering religious culture as potentially news?

KS: Just this morning Houston’s Belief section in the paper led with a religion and art story. This story, as a profile of a local church and its artwork, is more feature-like; it’s not merely fluff, but not incredibly in-depth, simply a local look. I think most religion and art stories you see are either like this or on the other end of the spectrum, the controversial piss-cross kind of stories. I’d like to see art and religion stories that better explain how the art relates to the tradition, rather than just pointing at the phenomenon, like “look at that, it’s Jewish/Muslim/Christian!”

MW: Do you think there has been a tendency lately to focus on the negative side of religious art in the press (Danish cartoons, chocolate Jesus, etc.)? If so, is that because religious artists aren’t pitching their stories well enough, or is it the fault of religious press?

KS: Yes. Controversy, juxtaposition, the unexpected certainly get more attention, but that’s the case with almost all news. People are still desperate to know and learn, but they don’t necessarily want to spend time with long essays that don’t draw them in from the start. Religion reporters, like all reporters, must consider the audience and present topics in exciting, creative ways that make people want to click and read.

MW: What are some of your favorite examples of religious art? Favorite religious artists?

KS: Ok, so I did do the mandatory European art history kind of course in college, and I’ve studied in Italy, touring the museums and churches in Rome and Florence… but that’s not really the kind of religious art that turns me on.

Rather than art that depicts religious events or is commissioned by a church or includes religious symbols, I like when artists create work in a way that reflects their religious tradition. I met an artist in Chicago who was inspired by her Jewish roots. Ellen Gradman (Twitter) makes large, multimedia colleges, sculptures and environments using found objects. In the creation of her work, she’s putting pieces together, acting out the Jewish notion of “tikkun olam,” which is a notion that Jews have the responsibility to serve the broken world they live in and rebuild it piece by piece. What a deep, and almost literal, way to put religion into action, I thought. Plus her work was beautiful! (I haven’t told her this, but even her little Twitter logo reminds me of the logo for Tikkun Daily.)

Peter Krausz’s “(No) Man’s Land” at Forum Gallery

January 6th, 2010 by Menachem Wecker

My review of the Canadian, Jewish artist appears in The Jewish Press.

Mesorah D.C.: Parshat “Vayechi”

January 4th, 2010 by Menachem Wecker

This post is part of a feature of critical responses to sermons by religious leaders.

I wanted to share an interesting sermon that the rabbi at Mesorah D.C. delivered this past Friday night. The rabbi doesn’t seem to post his sermons, so I am keeping him anonymous.

The rabbi began by noting that the weekly portion, which begins at Genesis 47: 28, features a peculiar layout.

Most portions start off with one of two different sorts of indentations, but this portion is not immediately accessible when one scans the Torah scroll. (More info here.)

The rabbi connected the unusual layout with what he said was a biblical statement that Jacob tried to reveal to his sons when the Messiah would arrive (it is clear from here that it is a quote from Rashi not from the bible).

Why, wondered the rabbi, did the bible record that Jacob tried to reveal the Messianic arrival date if he failed? (Obviously the easy answer is the Torah did not ever claim that; Rashi did.) He connected the attempt with a question as to why the portion, when it says Jacob lived in Egypt for 17 years, used the word “vayechi” (from which the root “chai” comes) instead of the more regular “vayeshev” to mean “he lived.” (When I asked him about all the references in Genesis 5 to people living, using the root “chai,” he said the difference was “vayeshev” is usually used when the verse specifies where the character lives.)

The rabbi then cited the Zohar, which, according to him, says that Jacob was living the best years of his life in Egypt. One wonders, though, why Jacob’s life was just getting better and better when he told Pharaoh just verses earlier in Genesis 47:9, “The years of my life are 130 years — few and evil were the days of the years of my life, and they didn’t reach the days of the years of my fathers in their travels.” It would seem to me that Jacob was probably not a very happy person at the moment.

The rabbi somehow related all this to a parable. Declaring the kugel at the bottom of the pot to be the most tasty, the rabbi said a queen would never ask to be served that part of the dish, because it was beneath her honor. The queen would instead, the rabbi speculated, ask a servant to get it for her on the sly. Evidently, this somehow relates the “hidden-ness” of the beginning of the Torah portion and the way the ability to tell his sons when he would die evaded Jacob.

Email and RSS feed news roundup 1/3

January 3rd, 2010 by Menachem Wecker

It’s a “truly exciting time: for contemporary Iranian and Middle Eastern art, at least according to this.

Image on the right: a Chagall recently acquired by a Jewish museum in London. I’m not sure why the NY Times piece declares so assuredly that Chagall’s use of the crucifixion motif was “is used as a metaphor for persecuted Jewry.” I’m also curious, given the quality of the piece, that there is no discussion about its provenance or authenticity.

RIP Robert Smith, 81, president and trustee of the National Gallery of Art, who was also very involved in Jewish philanthropy. WaPo obituary.

A great post on Pastor Rick Warren and church fund raising, the media.

A Catholic priest, who “long ago discarded his clerical collar in favor of a painter’s smock.”

“In Jewish thought, art is about the spiritual beauty and the essence it embodies. The external is only a way to exalt the inner spirit. And, of course, beauty brings the viewer to a higher dimension,” says Rabbi Yonah Weinrib, who, as you can see from viewing his work in the video below, is unfairly compared to Chagall and van Gogh in the lead paragraph.

Lon Solomon: “People Jesus Met, part 28 — The Wedding in Cana (Full Obedience)”

January 2nd, 2010 by Menachem Wecker

This post is part of a feature of critical responses to sermons by religious leaders.

In Lon Solomon’s 12/13/09 sermon (audio, video), the lead pastor at McLean Bible errs in his analysis of the story of Noah, and offers what is unfortunately a regular feature in his otherwise thought-provoking sermons: a hateful, snide comment about rabbis. He also talks about how God told him to become lead pastor at McLean.

Though “every American child, just about, has heard of Noah and his ark,” Solomon begins, what made Noah a great man wasn’t that people know about him, nor that people have toys that look like him, but that the bible honors him as “one of the greatest men ever to live.”

Solomon mentions that Isaiah (see Isaiah 54:9 to see that this isn’t a positive reference), Peter (see here), Ezekiel (see here) and “the Lord Jesus himself” cast Noah in a positive light. Solomon also cites Hebrews 11, which he calls “the Bible’s spiritual hall of fame, the Cooperstown of the Bible.”

“There’s old Noah, big as life, and what was it that the Bible applauds Noah for above everything else? Well folks, it was for his full obedience to God.”

According to Solomon, the Bible tells us Noah had never seen rain and had no empirical proof that a flood was coming. “Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Noah obeyed God,” Solomon would have us believe. After discussing the wedding at Cana, Solomon (starting about 11:30 into the clip) adds, “What made Noah the spiritual giant that he was, what caused the Bible to applaud him and put him into the hall of fame, was his full obedience to God. What God told him to do Noah did. He did it fully, and he did it completely, and he did it without compromise.”

Indeed, the passage Solomon quotes, Hebrews 11:7, states, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”

The trouble is that Solomon neglects another important Old Testament passage, Genesis 7:7 (Hebrew), “And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood” (emphasis mine).

The medieval commentator Rashi has noted that Noah entered the ark not because he was faithful even without empirical proof of the flood, but because the waters pushed him in. “Even Noah was one of those who is short of faith,” Rashi writes, “he sometimes believes and sometimes does not believe that the flood would come. And he did not enter the ark until the waters forced him.”

Elsewhere in his sermon (19:55 ff), Solomon discusses God’s reasons for stripping Saul of his kingship and replacing him with David. “Friends, in God’s mind, partial obedience is no obedience,” he says. What then of Noah’s partial obedience? How does Solomon explain the Genesis verse that Noah actually entered the ark because of the empirical evidence that promised a watery grave if he did not shut himself up in his boat?

Of course, the Hebrews verse says Noah started building the ark out of faith — since the flood had not come yet — but that can co-exist with the OT statement that what actually drove Noah into the ark wasn’t his faith in God, but actually meteorological evidence that a flood was beginning. (The Rockwell image on the right comes to mind.)

Surely, Solomon need not respond to every biblical verse in every sermon, but starting at 14:01, he says in a different context, “Well friends, every nincompoop can get this one right. I mean even those rabbis can get this one right.” In that light, I will say, friends, every school child who has studied the Hebrew bible knows Genesis 7:7. And especially the lead pastor at a mega church, who fancies himself an expert on the Hebrew Bible, should get this one right.

Image: The Entry of the Animals into Noah’s Ark by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1613. Getty Museum.

RIP: David Levine, 83

December 29th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

UPDATE 1/1/10: My article on David Levine appears in the Forward, titled “David Levine, 83: Hailed as the ‘King of Crosshatching,’ Family and Friends Say He Was a Painter First.”

Artist David Levine has passed away, The New York Times reports. I am considering writing something longer about him, because I met him about five years ago in his apartment and studio. I can honestly say that meeting him was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I consider him one of the greatest artists of his generation. May he rest in peace.

Below is a photo I took of David in his studio critiquing my notebook of copies of his drawings.

Merry Christmas roundup

December 25th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

Germany to Egypt: Nefertiti too fragile to return.

Vatican: Simpsons are “realistic & intelligent.” (The Pope’s OK too.)

Amazing article by Benyamin Cohen on Jewish Christmas Eve (with references to rabbinic-ordained sex-free Dec. 24, tearing toilet paper, poker).

Simon Wiesenthal Center apparently convinces eBay to cancel a sale of an Auschwitz-like sign. The Center says the seller is trying to “cash in” on the recent theft of the sign, but I fail to see the problem here. Many Jewish-run auction houses deal in Antisemitica, and there shouldn’t be a problem with that.

Driven from the mainstream, Muslims with extremist approaches to their faith are thriving online and “exploit[ing] visitors’ religious illiteracy,” says altmuslim.

Book theft, National Geographic slip-ups, an ash Buddha

December 21st, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

Christmas icons and the ivory trade.

With the economic downturn, book thefts are up, reports the NY Times. The most frequently stolen book? I’ll give you a hint. It’s a religious one.

“Jewish art is like a pendulum, it swings back and forth, yes, no, maybe, yes,” says 81-year-old artist Jo Milgrom, creator of Visual Midrash. Particularly intriguing is the piece Milgrom describes on page two of the article based on Song of Songs.

On “egregious mistakes” National Geographic committed with respect to Jewish practice. [I haven’t seen the publication in question, but if this blog post is quoting accurately, NG should be very embarrassed.]

Yet another fantastic WSJ art piece, this time on Tissot (which I’m hoping to see this weekend) and R. Crumb.

A very interesting Buddhist performance piece. HT: BAN.

Police suspect the robbery of the Auschwitz sign may have a foreign collector behind it.

Controversial religious (anti-religious?) advertising.

BibleBeltBlogger on “Funny faith healing stories at Oral Roberts’ funeral.”

MyJewishLearning.com article on Pissarro, born collectors, biblical women, holy pictures

December 20th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

“I always say that people are either born as collectors or they don’t collect at all,” says Willy Lindwer, who evidently was born to collect Judaica and Israeli/Palestinian artifacts to the extent his wife “almost threw me out of the house.”

My article on Camille Pissarro, rebbe of the Impressionists, appears in MyJewishLearning.com.

“There isn’t too terribly much” about women in scripture, “and many times what is mentioned isn’t exactly flattering,” writes Christine Rappleye in Mormon Times. Unsurprisingly, Camille Fronk Olson, author of Women of the Old Testament found the earlier women (like Rebecca, Leah, Rachel, etc.) were harder to research. Luckily she had the help of artist (and former student) Elspeth Young.

“When I came to visit the great art galleries of Ireland, Britain and continental Europe I saw where the provenence [sic] of European art lay: in holy pictures,” writes Mary Kenny in the Guardian. I disagree that “Catholic – and certainly Latin – culture is picture-orientated, while Protestant – and Nordic – cultures are text-orientated,” but I think Kenny is quite right to say, “You cannot understand European art without a knowledge of Christian (and Jewish) traditions.”

Mobile readers clock 1b minutes on YouVersion

December 19th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

As a reader of the YouVersion bible on my BlackBerry, I received the following email:

Way to go, YouVersion users! Together, you’ve spent one billion minutes reading the Bible on your mobile device. It’s pretty exciting to see so many of you reading God’s word consistently because you always have your Bible with you. That’s an awesome way to make your minutes count!

While you’re on the go, you’ve been using YouVersion on iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android phones, reading the Bible in your choice of 41 translations and 21 languages.

We’re polishing up some great new features we can’t wait to share with you soon. (Like reading plans? You’ll love what’s coming!)

For now, how about taking a minute to celebrate with us? http://www.onebillionminutes.com

Thanks for being part of the YouVersion community. We’re making history by reading Scripture together!

The YouVersion Team

Although I have no professional affiliation with YouVersion, I highly recommend it to smart phone users.

Eric Robert Parnes, Jean Pierre Ramos at STILLLIFE

December 19th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

The above image comes from the Md.-based STILLLIFE. Here’s the caption: “Clockwise: Eric Parnes ‘Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll’ (in Farsi) neon sign 18″x20″ 2008. Jean Pierre Ramos ‘Men’s shirt’ vegetable ivory button, 2009. Jean Pierre Ramos ‘Behind the Scenes’ 2009. Eric Parnes ‘KFC’ acrylic on canvas 8″ x 6″ 2009.”

According to the promotional materials, Parnes is an American Iranian who presents an “intentional revision of the ways in which grapheme have driven war, religion, and fashion through time,” and Ramos is “a multi lingual New Yorker of Colombian and French ancestry.”

For those who have time to visit Parnes’ website, I find the Shopping and News Anchors series particularly interesting and provocative. The Judaica series puzzles me a bit, and I will have to give it more thought.

Email and RSS feed news roundup 12/19

December 19th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

The Israel Museum has received $12m from the Mandel family, which, in part, will provide for a wing that combines Jewish religious and secular objects. [NY Times Arts Beat] This will be interesting to watch, as it is a rare exhibition space that actually manages to seamlessly present ritual and secular objects without favoring one over the other.

For the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ “discovery” of America, Roman Catholic priest Rev. John Giuliani is painting a “very personal” reparation: “an effort,” according to Episcopal Life, “to represent Native Americans as the first spiritual presence in the land.” Sounds noble and open minded, doesn’t it? But the priest, 77, is depicting the Native Americans as Christian saints “to acknowledge their original spiritual presence here.” I love how he is drawing from his own sacred tradition to represent others in a very personal way, but I could see some folks getting put off by this, especially since Columbus, however motivated by his faith, did some pretty reprehensible things to the Native Americans in the name of religion. Either way, check out a quote at the end of the article from Giuliani on Native Americans converting to Christianity that is quite interesting.

Ljuba Poleva, of the Prague-based Precious Legacy Tours, writes to Iconia with season greetings. “It’s been an exciting year for Prague’s Jewish community,” she says, “with the celebrations for 400 years since the death of Rabbi Loew bringing the revival of Jewish life here into the secular limelight. The restoration of Jewish monuments and cemeteries all over the country continues apace, and we’re looking to the future with bright eyes!” (PL holiday card available here.

January is Jewish history month in Florida, says Heritage Florida Jewish News, and one museum is discussing questions like: “Is Jewish art any art produced by a Jewish artist, regardless of content? Is Jewish art any art product that focuses on a specifically Jewish theme? Where does the ‘Jewishness’ lie, in the artist or in the art?”

Are there links between crosses and swastikas? If I’ve learned one thing from Ori Soltes’ wonderful book Our Sacred Signs: How Jewish, Christian and Muslim Art Draw from the Same Source, the answer is maybe, but this seems like a bit much. (Although I totally disagree with the simplified statement in the piece, “The whole point of art is to express who you are.”)

Judith H. Dobrzynski absolutely slams an instance of arts journalists acting like PR flaks. Of course this is only one side of the story, but Dobrzynski has done her research, and I think her post raises very important concerns.

Enid Futterman writes that a recording by her and Michael Cohen of “I Remember,” a “chamber piece based on Anne Frank’s diary” sung by Sandra Simon is available here.

John Piper on Domenico Feti’s “Ecce Homo”

December 18th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

In his most recent talk on SermonAudio.com titled “At the Price of God’s Own Blood,” renowned pastor John Piper (of Desiring God) starts by discussing 18th century German Moravian bishop Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf.

Piper speaks of von Zinzendorf’s trip to Dusseldorf, where he saw “Ecce Homo” by Italian painter Domenico Feti/Fetti. The inscription at the bottom of the painting, Piper says, is: “I have done this for you. What have you done for me?”

Von Zinzendorf said for the rest of his life, Piper says, that the experience of beholding Jesus’ suffering in that Feti painting changed his life (more on that here). He could no longer ever view himself as his own, Piper continues, but he had to ask whose he is, what did it cost to get him, and for what was he purchased.

This ties in to Piper’s larger message to his listeners, whom he encourages to think in these terms: “There is nothing that I want more in my life more than what Jesus bled to obtain.” It would be hard to argue that Piper is not supporting the sort of revelation-through-art that von Zinzendorf experienced. Powerful religious paintings can surely cause viewers to project themselves into the picture plane and imagine themselves participating in the religious scene.

Frankly, I’m not convinced the Feti painting is so powerful (I’m thinking of much better ones by Titian, Tintoretto, Memling, Rembrandt, Dürer, Bosch, etc.). But though I might judge the work as less successful artistically, it is hard to dispute its religious utility.

(Jewish readers may be interested in the last part of the sermon, where Piper recounts his recent discussion with a “Jewish rabbi” who told him that Christians owe Jews an apology for centuries of anti-Semitism. Piper agrees with the rabbi and says Jews are watching how Christians act, rather than listening to their words, however encouraging from an interfaith perspective.)

RIP: Oral Roberts

December 15th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

Oral Roberts, founder and first president of Oral Roberts University, has died today at 91.

In honor of Roberts, I had a look at the page for ORU’s studio art major.

Here’s a nice passage: “The Art Department at ORU recognizes art is an expression of an individual’s beliefs and endeavors to nurture each student’s creativity, ability and call to be a Christian artist. Students receive a firm foundation blending creative experiences with a critical knowledge of art past and present.”

Art certainly can be a great expression of belief. One does not usually turn to promotional copy for academic departments for religious truths, but here’s a rare exception.

Image: Flickr user davidsilver. Creative Commons. Link.

Note on the passing of the Bostoner Rebbe

December 6th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

I was very sad to learn that Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz, the Bostoner Rebbe (synagogue website), passed away yesterday in Israel.

Here is one thing about the Rebbe that I did not know: “In 1943, Horowitz marched to Washington to ask President Franklin D. Roosevelt to save the Jews of Europe from Hitler.” For more about the Rebbe, see this JTA article.

I have been to the Bostoner synagogue hundreds of times, and spent two summers working in the synagogue’s office, where I worked directly with the Rebbe and with his son, Rav Naftali.

I am very grateful for having had the privilege of working for the Rebbe. Not only have Jewish communities in Boston and throughout the world lost a great man, but this is a tremendous loss to religious communities worldwide. Rest in piece Rebbe Zt”l, zecher tzaddik l’vracha (”may the memory of this righteous man be a blessing [for all of us]”).

Did William Blake know Hebrew? Kabbalah

December 6th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

Short answer, no.

AIDS day, honoring iconoclasts, Googling Iraqi art

December 1st, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

For AIDS day, SLU’s MOCRA observes a “Day Without Art” with a painting based on St. Christopher (who carried Christ across a river). See also a post from Jesus in Love Blog.

A columnist says he’d like to see a monument celebrating the Christian iconoclasts. At first I thought the piece was completely ironic, but after rereading it, I realized that wasn’t the intent.

Google will digitally preserve the Iraqi artifacts that managed to survive the bombings/lootings.

A modern day artist says when she works, “I absolutely feel like I am keeping company with these great iconographers of the past.”

A “Catholic Jew” reflects on Miriam’s well and art. I don’t follow the post at all, and I must admit I can’t tell if it is informative or nonsensical. If anyone can help decipher it, please let me know.

LA Times covers Barbara Mendes’ evolution from “raw and sexual” underground comics artist to Orthodox Jewish biblical painter.

Robert Frank at the Metropolitan Museum

December 1st, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

Review link.

Tobi Kahn at New York’s Museum of Biblical Art

November 14th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

My review appears in The Jewish Press here.

My recent interviews on social media

November 7th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

After getting some very generous coverage from the Washington Post and NBC for my (and my colleagues’) social media use at GW, there has been a good deal more momentum. I am involved in the new Association for Social Media and Higher Education, which is hosting an event on Nov. 12 about Twitter use and the U.S. military. RSVP information here.

I am also interviewed about Twitter on the SimpsonScarborough newsletter under the title “To Tweet or Not to Tweet.”

Finally, I was interviewed by American University students Charly Arnolt and Tom Heijne. The videos appear below:

Vatican art, digital Koran, Jewish pop art

November 7th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, on the church and art: “We are a bit like estranged relatives; there has been a divorce.”

Haitham Eid (see here, here) writes that he has some paintings on exhibit on Nov. 11 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the JW Marriott Lobby on 614 Canal St. in New Orleans. If you would like more information, leave a comment or send me an email. I’d love to hear how the event was if any readers are able to make it.

A 900-year old Indian Koran, which is taking two years to digitize at the Walters Art Museum.

Is the “God is dead” movement dead?

Mycentraljersey.com on “Chassidic pop artist” Yitzchok Moully (see image). Maybe someone I should interview?

Is Glenn Beck the new Oprah (with a bit more of a religious flavor)?

Leo Frank Trending

November 2nd, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

A bit surprised to see that Leo Frank is trending on Google. Don’t know who he is? Wiki. And here’s where you can find info on Jason Robert Brown’s great album for Parade.

Hyman Bloom’s Unreal Rabbis

October 29th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

My column appears in The Jewish Press.

My review of Simeon Solomon

October 20th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

My review of Pre-Raphaelite painter Simeon Solomon appears on MyJewishLearning.com with the subheading, “This painter of biblical scenes, who died in shame and obscurity, is undergoing a revival.”

Interview: Matt Poulton, founder & director of social marketing, Latterdailyart.com

October 20th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

I first connected with Matt Poulton, founder and director of social marketing at www.Latterdailyart.com, on Twitter (his handle: @latterdailyart. You can read more about Latterdaily art on this page. Poulton stresses something that should be obvious, but I’ve added it just in case, “The answers I give below are my personal thoughts, beliefs, and feelings and do not in any way represent those of other LDS artists or the LDS Church in any way.”

MW: What was the inspiration for creating Latterdailyart.com?

MP: The inspiration to build and launch Latterdailyart.com is two-fold. While growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah, I worked for a very well respected commercial photographer by the name of Steve Tregeagle. I worked in his custom photo lab when I was a teenager and saw first-hand how hard he worked to deliver high quality photography for all of his clients. Steve is an artist who is extremely meticulous and is widely known for the quality of his work. The Graphics Department for the LDS Church came across Steve’s work and commissioned him to take a number of photos of LDS Temples. Over the years, Steve’s photos have appeared on Church postcards and posters, as well as in Church magazines and other Church literature. Needless to say, Steve has years of experience capturing gorgeous photographs of many of the Church’s temples and historical sites.

This experience as a young teenager, mixed with my love for religious art inspired me to build Latterdailyart.com. I feel the site has great potential in helping to discover many talented artists and photographers who just need a little extra help getting their work in front of the right audience. I hope that Latterdailyart.com will provide this much needed LDS Art community and spotlight.

MW: How do you define LDS art? Is there more to it than just art made by Mormons?

MP: Personally, I define LDS art as art that portrays the thoughts, feelings, history, and doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The LDS Church has a rich history of hardship, persecution, pioneer heritage, hard work, exodus, love, and commitment to God, country, and family.

But what constitutes LDS Church art? That itself is a somewhat complicated question since the LDS culture is world-wide and members come from more than 130 different countries. It includes photography and artwork of temples, landscapes, and portraits from cultures all over the world.

Does it have to deal exclusively with Church themes? Personally, I feel inspired spiritually when I see art of nature, cool landscapes, or influential people that have impacted the thoughts and beliefs of the world. Many such people either have belonged to the church or have ties with the church and should be recognized for their hard work and achievement through the medium of art.

MW: To what extent do LDS artists draw upon Old and New Testament narratives?

MP: The Old and New Testament narratives form a very important part of the foundation of LDS art. LDS artists have placed major emphasis on portraying God’s dealings with his ancient people in Jerusalem. Every aspect of the Savior Jesus Christ’s works have been displayed in LDS art. From the birth of the Baby Jesus to His glorious resurrection, LDS artists have captured these New Testament stories.

Well known LDS artists have painted the Savior in the temple as a young 12 year old boy speaking with the priests and teachers. They have captured His humble and submissive baptism by John the Baptist. His many miracles of teaching the people of Jerusalem, speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well, raising Lazarus from the dead, washing the feet of His apostles, standing and testifying before Pilate, being crucified on the cross, and finally appearing to his apostles as the glorified and resurrected Christ have all been beautifully displayed on the LDS canvas.

MW: Is most LDS art figurative, or is there also an abstract movement?

MP: The majority of LDS art is figurative. There are others though that choose to use abstract movement very effectively to communicate their messages. One such artist, Stephanie K. Northrup, uses abstract movement to capture the beauty of LDS beliefs in shapes and contours that demonstrate great spiritual emotion. Stephanie’s work may be found on her website.

MW: To what extent are non-Mormons expressing an interest in your site, and in LDS art in general?

MP: So far, we’ve received traffic from the LDS culture. We do hope for and invite all artists and photographers to participate in the art contest as we feel religious art shares many common themes regardless of any specific religious affiliation. We hope to further promote the talent of the LDS art culture, but we do invite all to participate on the site.

MW: Is Latterdailyart.com a full-time job for you, or is it something you do on the side?

MP: Currently, Latterdailyart.com is a very satisfying and fun side job for me. Aside from my love for the site and the LDS Art Contest, I work as a statistical analyst for a statistical modeling firm.

MW: You write a blog, and use Twitter, Facebook, Photobucket, and Flickr. Do you think there is a social/new media trend in the LDS community?

MP: Yes, there is a large social media trend in the LDS culture. There are hundreds of blogs written by members of the church and thousands of members participating in the major online media forums. The Church has made an official invitation to its members to get online and help others learn about our beliefs. We do so with great desires to share and also to learn about others’ cultures and beliefs. Some of my very close friends come from the Muslim religion/culture. We have a blast discussing the differing doctrines and religious cultures with which we have lived. These relationships have been deeply satisfying for me personally and I am grateful for all I’ve learned from my Muslim friends, their faith, and their religious art as it is some of the most detailed and gorgeous religious art in the world.

MW: Do you think there is a distinction between LDS art and LDS kitsch?

MP: Yes, I do think there is a distinction between the two. Obviously, mediocre LDS art can be found in many, many locations both on and offline, but there are some highly talented and educated LDS artists whose work (regardless of whether it be religious or not) should be recognized for its purity and sophistication.

MW: I see you are hiring a blogger. Is that position still open? If any readers are interested in applying, what do they need to know?

MP: Yes, the position for a blogger is still open. If readers are interested in learning more about the position, they can email us at jobs@latterdailyart.com. A strong background in art history, a love for creative writing, and an educated background in LDS/religious art are preferred.

News roundup 10/16 a new da Vinci, Obama curator

October 16th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

A “ghost of a fingerprint” is apparently da Vinci’s.

WaPo’s Blake Gopnik likes the Obamas’ WH art selections so much he practically awards a Nobel; not so Terry Teachout. I’m with TT (and TG).

RIP Warhol photographer Nat Finkelstein (a Jew? no word from Wikipedia, yes according to this book), born in Brooklyn in 1933.

NBC’s artist in residence program: probably bad for art and for residents.

Surprisingly, this comparison of Ed Ruscha and Giorgione actually might work. Though Giorgione never looked like a “Jehovah Witness leaflet.”

$16.3 to $13.7m: the story of the Jewish Museum’s annual budget.

In two weeks, Jewish art will be celebrated in Morocco.

A very high-tech. looking bible. Would love to get a copy!

And a great piece to end on a comic note.

Quote in Washington Post on social media

October 15th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

I am quoted in The Washington Post story “College’s Staff Is All Thumbs — and Proud of It.” The story also got attention from NBC. Since the first story appeared, I have been hearing from several people working on social media strategies at different schools around the country, and it’s been busy, but quite fun.

Does America need another Holocaust museum?

October 15th, 2009 by Menachem Wecker

My column appears in The Jewish Press.