CHAMBERS OF WONDER

“Social media” isn’t all a cesspool waste of time.

Poking around Instagram lately, for example, I’ve found tons of wonderful painters, photographers, curators. And then just weird stuff like the Museum St. Wendel, a sort of compound in St. Wendel, Germany based on the cultural and historical heritage of St. Wendalinus. Here’s a description of one of their upcoming exhibitions:

Pfannoptikum
The rolling museum by Katharina and Rüdiger Krenkel
July 30th, 6:00 pm

In the summer exhibition 2021 in the Museum St. Wendel, the two are represented as individual artists: Katharina Krenkel with small crocheted sculptures that are arranged into a still life, Rüdiger Krenkel with the sculptures “Bag snail” made of marble and “Käpsele” made of round steel.

The objects in the “Rolling Museum” are inspired by the Chambers of Wonder and Curiosity Cabinets of the late Renaissance and Baroque periods, the forerunners of our museums today. In these a wealthy prince collected exotic artifacts, handicrafts, scientific equipment and inventions, alchemical and scientific curiosities and other treasures.

In this tradition, the sculptor siblings Katharina and Rüdiger Krenkel integrate their small sculptures made of wool, stone, metal and wood into their own private collections of found objects from all over the world and contrast them with them. The name of the project is explained by this Panoptikum: The “Pfannoptikum” was created from a former Pfanni sales van. With this moving cabinet of mirrors, the two artists now mingle with the showmen.”

I mean who does not need a cheering “bag snail” these days?

I also listened to a truly solid homily by Fr. Patrick Dooling of San Carlos Cathedral in Monterey, CA, on today’s Gospel: a prophet is without honor in his native place. (You can find it here if you scroll down to Mass for July 4, 2021).

Fr. Pat is a friend and I was reminded all over again why. One of the things he says is that more than ever we need the new-old, and why not cultivate the habit of, whenever we read or see or hear something beautiful, passing THAT on, (I added to myself, instead of the absurdity, hatefulness, lies, and ideological insanity that currently hold sway and that if we allow them to, can take up so much of our energy and time).

On that note, the Holy Father’s prayer intention for July is

Social Friendship:
“We pray that, in social, economic and political situations of conflict, we may be courageous and passionate architects of dialogue and friendship.”

My first thought was Oh good, I can now give free rein to my desire to expound upon….oh forget it, even mentioning what I want to expound on is gossipy and unnecessary.

Because after I heard Fr. Pat’s homily, I realized–No. Say the good things men need to hear. Get rid of all malice, slander, etc. [Eph. 4:31]. I do think some people are made to be social, cultural and religious commentators, and can do so on a regular basis without putting themselves in spiritual danger. I’m very probably not one of them. Plus can we not also be passionate architects of dialogue and friendship by broadcasting goodness, beauty and truth?

In fact, broadcasting beauty takes a lot more effort, heart and time than the other. In that regard, I recommend to you a blog by Altoon Sultan called Studio and Garden. Altoon is a distinguished and widely-acclaimed visual artist who for decades has lived, gardened, photographed and worked in and around a 200-year-old farmhouse in rural Vermont.

I followed Altoon for years, then she took a lengthy hiatus, and now, to the world’s great benefit, she is back. She might to do a post on cobwebs, or lichen, or the turned wooden legs of old chairs, sofas and dressers. She might offer a recipe for raspberry tart, made from fruit grown from her garden. She periodically forays into her native NYC and shares what she’s seen at the galleries and museums she visits there.

Take two recent posts, for example: “At the Met: Animals” and “At the Met: Abstraction, Modest and Monumental.”

Anyone who has ever written a blog, or written, period, knows that a tremendous amount of work goes into even one such post. The winnowing down and deciding which artworks of to include. The taking, editing, sizing, positioning, captioning of the photographs. The painstaking writing of the commentary for each of eight or ten works. Altoon’s reflections on art are never fussy, academic, high-brow, abstruse. They’re always lively, engaging, interesting, accessible, and human, delivered in such a way that both the, say, professionally-trained working artist and the curious layperson can find something fresh, exciting, and new.

Altogether the effect is of a life deeply thought, felt, and observed; disciplined, focused, ordered–and incredibly generous.

That’s the kind of life I want to aim for. So let’s be passionate architects of dialogue and friendship! Let’s cultivate our own personal chambers of wonder-and broadcast beauty.

4 Replies to “CHAMBERS OF WONDER”

  1. Christina V. says: Reply

    Good Morning-
    What a wonderful read on this 7/5, after Independence Day. You summarized it beautifully, like you always do, Spread Good & the Good Word. When I get down/depressed about the ills of Social Media, I have to remember the good/wonderful: Places we could not ever have a chance to visit; People connection-especially during Covid!
    Just like Altoon, you could describe an obscure part of L.A.interesting & exotic.
    I will miss your focus on “my side of CA/L.A.” in Angelus, however so glad you are happy in your beautiful Tuscan home base. I am sure you also inspired some to make such a move.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh thank you, Christine–not to worry, Tucson is less than a day’s drive away. I know I’ll be back to visit–LA is deep in my bones and blood and I will also continue my weekly arts and culture column for the Archdiocese. So the search for beauty continues–both there and here. And you’re so right–the internet in general and social media in particular have connected us with many many people we would otherwise have never met–so as with almost all things, technology can go either way, depending upon how we use it…I am really taking myself in hand here, as I realized last week that I was spending way too much time lurking about and looking for people to bolster my own opinions and arguments. After a while, the question becomes: Why am I not writing? Or sweeping the walk, answering my emails, balancing my checkbook et cetera…the world goes as it wills, but what about my responsibility to my own patch of ground?…

  2. Goodness! Beauty! and Truth! GBT! What a concept! Bless your wild and beautiful heart, dear Heather!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Bless you, Glenda, and for maintaining the quest for beauty in your own corner of the world!

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