New Painting: The Wall Remaining

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The Wall Remaining – Detail

This week I want to feature what may be my favorite painting from the Zeitgeist art exhibit, a show of recent work by Mollie and me. If you haven’t seen the show, there’s still time! It runs until Feb 23, 2014.

The painting I’m featuring is titled The Wall Remaining. It’s a triptych approximately 4 by 6 feet, painted in oils on panel. Below I’ve reprinted the text that accompanies the painting in the show:

THE WALL REMAINING

The history of relations between the Church and the Synagogue is one of the world’s tragic stories. The first followers of Jesus (Yeshua in, Hebrew,) were all Jewish, and his “church” began as a sect of first century Judaism. As these early Jewish disciples spread the message of Jesus, a series of events, described in Acts chapter 15, led to an astounding decision on the part of his disciples: the Jewish church in Jerusalem made the decision to fully welcome gentile (non-Jewish) believers, as brothers and sisters, into their company without requiring them to become Jewish. The gentiles’ status as joint heirs would be based on their being “partakers of the new covenant” of Yeshua. The ancient Mosaic covenant sign of circumcision, as well as Torah observance, would not be required of them.

As a result of this inclusivity, large numbers of gentiles came into the church, eventually outnumbering the Jewish members. As the church became more gentilized over time, and as Jewish members increasingly found themselves out of favor with traditional Jews, the church took on a distinctly Greco-Roman character. By the time of the first Ecumenical Council under the Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, there was not a single Jewish bishop in attendance, though some 1800 invitations were sent out across the empire. Increasingly, anti-Jewish laws were passed under subsequent Christian emperors and kings so that the Church eventually became an openly anti-Jewish institution, generally consigning Jews to an inferior status, and at times actively persecuting them.

Throughout Europe, it is still possible to see vestiges of the historic, divisive relationship between the Church and the Synagogue displayed in the artistic embellishments of its cathedrals. Many cathedrals feature two figures: Ecclesia (the Church,) and Synagoga (the Synagogue.) Triumphant Ecclesia wears a crown, and usually holds a staff and a Eucharistic chalice. Synagoga is always blindfolded, and carries a broken staff and a representation of the Torah. Though I had previously read about these two allegorical figures in my books, I saw them for the first time in the Jewish Museum in Berlin. The sight of them deeply saddened me.

It is noteworthy that the New Testament scriptures do not support this division. The Jewish apostle Paul writes:

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision (Jews,)…were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise…But now in Christ Jesus you who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2:11-16)

Here I have painted Ecclesia and Synagoga as ossified and broken statues warming in the light of these scriptures. Ecclesia is not triumphant; instead her head is bowed down. Synagoga has become indignant and distanced; understandably so. The wall remaining, though invisible, is as formidable and as obstinate as the Berlin wall ever was. The figure in the center panel reaches for the hands of the two ladies, awaiting the healing and the unity-in-diversity that I believe we will see in our lifetimes; a unity that has not existed since the dawn of the early Church. (end quote)

One New Man-synagoga-ecclesia

For hours and information about the Zeitgeist painting exhibit, call the Loveland Museum-Gallery at 970.962.2410, or visit www.lovelandmuseumgallery.org.

You can purchase note cards and other artsy gifty items featuring our art & design work at our online Zazzle store (click here.) Thank you for your support!

 Top related posts:
–          What Easter has to do with Separating Christians and Jews
–          Art & Church History: The Uncut Version

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Zeitgeist – Recent Paintings by Scott & Mollie Freeman

Mollie and I opened our art exhibit at the Loveland Museum-Gallery last weekend. In this post I will share my opening comments for those of you who wanted to be there but couldn’t make it. Many thanks to those of you who did come – you certainly made it a special evening for us! Art is, after all, a communal undertaking.

Of course I can’t help but do a little embellishing along the way, but here’s the gist of what I said:

First I want to say that Mollie and I are inexperienced travelers, and we claim no expertise in things German. What follows are simply our observations and contemplations around our wonderful visit to Germany.

Mollie and I chose to title our exhibit, Zeitgeist, which means “spirit of the times.” Why Zeitgeist?
Well, it strikes us that the spirit of our times has to do with unity, community, and communion. This is what we’re all seeking, to some degree. We’re all now familiar with the idea of the world getting smaller, and the reality that international communication has become ridiculously easy and cheap. For me, it’s like a miracle that I regularly sit at my dining room table and communicate with people around the world. The fact that this art exhibit grew out of an unexpected international friendship initially set the tone for our show. Our trip was only made possible by the generosity of friends here at home, and especially by the generosity of the Taube family in Germany.

When we arrived in Germany, we saw the human urge to create community, to varying degrees, visibly expressed everywhere. It seemed that everywhere we went, we were surrounded by the smoldering reminders of someone’s attempt to create a better, unified world. I happen to be fascinated with utopian idealists and their visions. I say this without a hint of sarcasm. It seems obvious to me that the world is broken and that there is something terribly wrong with the human condition. I believe we’re all seeking unity between Man and God, between Man and Man, and between Man and Nature. I would guess that all of us are giving our energies to one or more of these pursuits. I give utopian visionaries props for at least trying to make the world a better place.

But there is a maddening paradox.

Part of what fascinates me about studying utopian human movements, ideologies, and isms is how they seem to always go horribly wrong. Despite the best intentions of men & women, our plans to make the world a better place often create a situation worse than what existed before. The worst examples of this are seen in political revolutions carried out “for the good of the people” that have often resulted in the bald slaughter of the people they claimed to liberate. It’s astonishing how good intentions can go so wrong.

Germany’s tumultuous, world-shaping history is extraordinary, profoundly contributing to the world both for better and for worse. This tension is reflected in the paintings here, to varying degrees:

With Nazism and World War 2, much of Germany was destroyed, and the entire country has been tirelessly rebuilding ever since; reconstructing its old historic structures, as well as creating new ones, often blending the very old with the very new. Several of Mollie’s watercolors feature the reconstructed St. Mary’s Cathedral in Lubeck, which was extensively bombed on the night of Palm Sunday in 1942. It’s important to note that Germany’s massive reconstruction campaign is not designed to cover over and forget the unspeakable horror of Nazism.  Often the ruins of the war have been left as a monument, or documented with public placards, so that future generations will never forget what occurred.

Other structures are reminders of the remarkable positive contributions that Germany has given the world. My painting, Coexistence of Centuries #2 shows St. Michael’s Church in the town of Luneburg, rising up behind the harmonious modern architecture in the foreground. Johann Sebastian Bach sang soprano as a choirboy in this church from 1700 to 1703. St. Michael’s, which opened in 1409, has stood through the invention of the printing press and the Renaissance, the Reformation, two world wars, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and German re-unification.

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Coexistence of Centuries – oil, 24×36 in, Scott Freeman

After the Second World War, Germany was split in two by Communism. The city of Berlin suffered a bizarre fate, becoming engulfed behind the iron curtain, making West Berlin an isolated island of freedom well inside of East Germany. Stories abound. Though the Berlin Wall is now gone, city planners have marked and memorialized where it once stood, so that it is impossible to go through the city without seeing the remains of the utopian Communist experiment gone wrong in the midst of a now re-unified Germany. Two of my paintings resulted from a midnight walk in Berlin where I watched gentle people enjoying the night hours on Alexanderplatz, the site of the largest anti-government demonstration in GDR history, just days before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. I’ve posted thoughts on these paintings HERE and HERE.

Our German hosts also took us to visit the site of a much smaller utopian experiment. In the town of Worpswede, an artist from Bremen named Heinrich Vogeler joined an artist community in 1894. The next year he bought a cottage there and named it Barkenhoff, (which means birch tree cottage.)

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Barkenhoff

I took this quote from the museum exhibit:
“Upon returning to Worpswede, disillusioned by his experiences in the first World War and highly politicized, Heinrich Vogeler tried to create a “new world” at his Barkenhoff. Here a commune was supposed to realize his social utopia of a self-governing society without class structures and private property – an ambitious experiment that was to fail after a few short years.”

After the failure of the commune, apparently due to various human infidelities, Vogeler joined the Communist party, his art became propagandistic, he emigrated to Russia, and was eventually deported to Kazakhstan where he died, sick and destitute.

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Worpswede – Near the Artists Colony – oil, 20×24 inches, Scott Freeman

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Synagoga – part of a trytich entitled,
The Wall Remaining
– oil, 20×48 inches, Scott Freema

Mollie and I have also included our personal visions of unity, community, and communion in the exhibit. My triptych, The Wall Remaining, quotes tragic medieval iconography, and looks forward to what I believe will be a new unity emerging between the Synagogue and the Church. We shall see. I have posted on this painting in detail HERE.

One of my favorite pieces of Mollie’s is a large piece (4×5 ft) entitled, Jacob’s Ladder #8. She has painted several variations on this theme over the years. It refers to ideas of unity and communion in that the biblical theme of Jacob’s Ladder ultimately has to do with uniting heaven and earth. She has posted on this theme on her art blog, HERE.

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Jacob’s Ladder #8 – water media, 4×5 ft, Mollie Walker Freeman

 

“Zeitgeist – Paintings Inspired by Germany” will be open through Feb 23, 2014 at the Loveland Museum-Gallery in Loveland, Colorado – 503 N. Lincoln Ave – 970.962.2410 – http://www.LovelandMuseumGallery.org. Admission to the Foote Gallery is free.

New Watercolor Painting: “Muse”

This week I’m hoping you will do me the favor of casting a vote between two versions of the final painting I just finished for an upcoming exhibit. After finishing the first version, I wasn’t completely happy with it, so when the Loveland Museum moved our turn-in deadline back a few days, I started a second version of the same composition. This painting will be my smallest piece in the show, and also my only watercolor.

I use a crazy watercolor technique which is very fun, but darn near impossible to control, so there’s really no way to get the same result twice. I typically work on two watercolor paintings at the same time anyway, partly because working on a second one keeps me from messing with the first while successive stages are drying. Usually I’ll abandon one partway through and stay with the one I feel has the most promise. I this case, I completed them both, but am unsure as to which one I like best. I can’t exhibit them both because I only have one frame prepared.

When I started the second version of “Muse,” I was happy enough with the result that I decided to photograph some successive stages of the painting, for those interested in the process. I would summarize the process by saying that the painting is composed of successive layers of very wet glazes, so that the paint literally rolls around on the watercolor board. I’m grateful to Craig Lueck and John Richardson at Hallmark Cards, for introducing me to this technique, which made watercolor enjoyable for me.

(You can see a younger me using this technique in my 4 ½ minute watercolor video on Youtube. Simply type scott freeman watercolor in the Youtube search bar. My apologies for not yet being set up to link videos on this site.)

Here’s the first version of the painting. Mollie says I should put this one in the show:

Muse 1

Following are some stages showing the development of the second version.

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Below is the final result. Please let me know which painting you think should go in the show, (though I’m definitely leaning toward one of them.) Vote the first or second version. I’d be interested in your reasons if you’d care to share them:

Muse 2

The subject matter of this painting comes from one of my favorite evenings during our trip to Germany last year. After Mollie and I spent the day in the Jewish Museum in Berlin, our wonderful German hosts took us to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. Then we went for a walk and a glass of wine at the Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin’s most beautiful square, featuring domed German and French Cathedrals facing each other across the expansive plaza with the restored Konzerthaus Berlin (Berlin Concert Hall) rising up between them.

When we entered the square, the sky was beginning to turn Maxfield-Parrish-blue. The weather was still and lovely, and a street musician was playing saxophone on the square under an ornate street lamp that was just coming on. His music echoed through the square, making the moment all the more transcendent for me. To be carried away to Europe by the generosity and grace of our new international friends, and to now be in their company on such a beautiful night in one of the world’s historic cities was extraordinary. This overwhelming memory will always be with me.

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Street musician on Soldier Market Platz – photo by the author

On our walk to Lutter & Wegner’s Winehouse, we passed the Concert Hall with its grand stairway. Great statues framed the stairs. On one side was a lion, on the other a lioness, each mounted by a cherub playing a musical instrument. Our hosts waited patiently as I took more photos, one of which became the source for this painting. Back at our hotel, my night ended when I couldn’t sleep from excitement, and Mollie excused me to take a midnight walk in the city (recounted here.)

Scott Freeman and Mollie Walker Freeman will be presenting a two-person art exhibit themed around their Germany trip, entitled, “Zeitgeist: Paintings inspired by Germany.” The show opens with a reception at the Loveland Museum-Gallery on November 8, 2013 at 5pm, and will be on display through February 23, 2014.

New Painting: Street Band – Berlin

I don’t want to give too much away in advance of our show that opens in November, because I want you to come to it. But by way of a preliminary announcement, I’d like to share a couple of new pieces I just finished, and describe how the exhibit is developing.

Mollie and I are calling the show, Zeitgeist: Paintings Inspired by Germany. (Zeitgeist is a German word meaning spirit of the times.) The show will open at the Loveland Museum-Gallery on November 9 in the downstairs Foote Gallery, and will remain open until February 23, 2014. On the evening of January 10, Mollie and I will be doing a joint demonstration in separate media. She will demo re-purposed house paint, her primary medium. I will demo watercolor, my secondary medium, (because it is so fun to watch!) We’ll take turns talking and painting while the other’s work is drying. We really don’t know if this will be fun, or chaotic and dizzying for people, but we’d like for you to come and find out.

The Zeitgeist exhibit will present work representing both the external landscape of northern Germany and visions from our internal mindscapes. Some views were painted en plein air on location, other pieces were inspired by people, places, or art we experienced. My crazy wife is busily working on 3 large paintings that will not fit in our van (sigh.)

Following are two pieces I recently completed, both inspired by our visit to Berlin. I posted earlier about a midnight stroll I took in Berlin one night when I was too excited to sleep. These pieces came from that night as well.

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Street Band – Berlin
Scott Freeman, oil, 14×16 in.

I enjoy painting urban nocturnes because of the isolated, lively colors that one simply doesn’t get in the daylight. This scene of a street band is a small painting that reflects the spirit of Berlin that I saw that night. Just a group of guys playing music on Alexanderplatz, (plaza) the site where the largest anti-government protest in East Germany history occurred, just days before the fall of the Berlin wall in November of 1989.

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One of my favorite graffiti images from Berlin.

The second piece, below, is an appropriation – an assemblage of street art, none of which originated with me. I hope I didn’t commit any crimes in collecting these pieces of urban subculture. Certain areas of Berlin were covered in Graffiti and plastered with posters and announcements. I was kind of keeping my eyes open for a cool poster from off the street, but one that I could remove intact without being an inconsiderate jerk. Down an alley, I was happy to finally discover the pink elephant poster which had mostly peeled off the wall because of the rain. So I helped it off the rest of the way. I love the juxtaposition of the anti-capitalist blog leaflet ( the wolf) over the Club Maxxim image – a wonderfully ironic statement for pluralism and freedom.

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Animals of Berlin
Appropriation, Scott Freeman

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From Berlin: An Amusing Tale of the Clashing of Symbols

This past summer Mollie and I spent three wonderful weeks in Northern Germany. In the course of a three-day adventure in Berlin, our dear German hosts shared an amusing historical detail that was new to me. In what was formerly communist East Berlin, there is an architectural structure rising high above the rest of the city. In fact, the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) is the tallest structure in all of Germany. The Fernsehturm was designed and built by the East German government as an act of psychological warfare in the 1960s. Of course it also served a practical function as a radio and TV tower. But it is situated relatively close to where the Berlin wall was located, dividing the free West from the East. The imposing tower literally looked into West Berlin when the city was still divided, and the people on the west side could clearly not ignore the tower rising up – a reminder of the threat of a political movement that had divided their country, and intended to overwhelm the planet.

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This photo is taken from Bernauer Strasse, a famous street where many East Berliners escaped into West Berlin, and many died trying. The vertical bars commemorate the exact height and location of where the wall once stood. In the distance you can see the TV Tower rising up. – photo by Scott Freeman, 2012

Younger generations may not be aware of Communism’s stated global aspirations, now that the threat is essentially gone. But those of us who lived through the Soviet Era remember well how intimidating it was. It is worth recalling some quotes from Communist leaders. From the outset, Marx and Engels believed that the inevitable “march of history” would result in the end of capitalism and class divisions worldwide. In 1956 Nikita Khrushchev famously told a group of Western ambassadors in Moscow: “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.” Despite their belief in the inevitability of worldwide communism, Marx and other communist leaders clearly felt justified in helping the prophecy along by the use of force.

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A view of the tower from Alexanderplatz, during my midnight walk,
(see my previous post.) – photo Scott Freeman, 2012

Of special interest to me, even as a teenager, was the atheistic nature of Communism. It was supposedly a scientific system, (as though belief in God and the practice of science contradict each other.) Both God and religion had supposedly been utterly discredited by reason and modernism. Theism was expected to eventually die out completely as materialist rationalism spread around the world. Beginning with the “enlightenment,” a succession of thinkers had been making (incorrect) predictions as to when the demise of God and religion would occur. This idea of modernity extinguishing theism has been called “secularization theory,” and Communism can be seen as one manifestation of it. Churches in Soviet Bloc countries were often ushered out of existence in order to speed “progress” along. Khrushchev closed some 4,000 Russian Churches, and in 1961 promised to show the last priest on TV. Christians were banned not only from the teaching profession, but even from teaching their own children about God. Up until Gorbachev, political dissenters and Christians were considered to be mentally ill by the Soviet Government, and were institutionalized and “treated” as such

Perhaps you’re wondering where the amusing part comes in.

Well, the design of the Fernsehturm essentially resembles a large globe impaled on a giant needle. (Or a giant silver asparagus according to some locals.) It so happens that, on cloudless days, when full sunlight strikes the globe, a clear highlight appears in the shape of a cross. Not a plus sign. Not an x, but a shining cross. So what was meant to be an intimidating presence, not unlike the Eye of Sauron in Mordor, accidentally turned out to be a billboard for Communism’s most hated institution – the Church. At least on sunny days. If there had been an equivalent to the ACLU in East Germany, it surely would have sued the atheistic Communist government for promoting Christianity! GDR Officials tried in vain to stop the symbol from appearing by treating the metal. Nothing worked. Eventually the tower was nicknamed by the locals as “The Pope’s Revenge”.

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The irrepressible symbol showing itself again, amidst the rebuilding.
– photo Scott Freeman, 2012

The Berlin Wall came down in 1989 – 28 years after it was erected, and 100 years after Neitzsche announced that God was dead. Amidst singing and celebration, East and West Berlin were reunited. Berlin was remade the capitol of a unified and free Germany. Today the Fernsehturm has a rotating bar and restaurant inside its globe. Capitalist visitors can now pay to ride up and get a 360 view of the remarkable city that is Berlin, in the heart of Europe’s strongest economic power. I find that amusing.

Oh…and I should mention that God is alive and well in Berlin. I spoke with Him while I was there.

New Painting: My Midnight Walk Through Berlin

During a trip to Berlin last summer, after a day of touring I was too energized by the history of the place to sleep. So I took a walk around the city after midnight. Berlin was still alive and full of color, music, and street performers. The painting below is a result of my late night walk. I’m also including some of my (lame) photography so you can get a sense of the color.

I loved Berlin. Is there another city in the world with such a crazy history? And yet it’s a story that ends well.

At the end of the Second World War, occupied Germany was divided into 4 zones by the victorious Allied Forces. America, France, and Britain, turned their zones back over to German control. The Soviet Union did not. The eastern half of Germany became the misnamed German Democratic Republic, disappearing behind the Iron Curtain for over 40 years. As for the city of Berlin, half of the city – the western half – became a conspicuous island of freedom and prosperity far inside the Iron Curtain. Eventually the GDR erected a wall across Berlin to keep East Germans from defecting to West Berlin. The Berlin Wall became a symbol of the oppression and failure of communism, and the differences between the western half and eastern half of the city grew stark over the years as West Berliners enjoyed the fruits of freedom.

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The night I took my midnight stroll, these thoughts were keeping me awake. The physical wall went up when I was one year old – 1961. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, I saved the newspaper headlines. But actually standing in Berlin with native Germans and hearing their stories was an amazing experience for me. Today a reunified Germany is going about the task of rebuilding the scarred city with remarkable intelligence. But it wasn’t that long ago, and the butt-ugly communist architecture is still visible. The hotel where my wife and friends were staying was behind the Iron Curtain just 25 years ago. My midnight walk took me to Alexanderplatz (plaza), site of the largest protest in East German history which occurred a few days before the wall came down. When I arrived, the Platz was full of people, but they were enjoying the night, not protesting.

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I speak very little German, but I think this was a comedy show. “Lacht” means “laughs”.

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Rising up in the background you can see the Fernsehturm (television tower) built by the GDR in the 1960s. Our German hosts told us a fun story about this tower, which I will share in my next post. The Fernsehturm remains the tallest structure in Germany.

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I don’t know what these guys were doing, but they had a large crowd. Something with a female volunteer and fire. The sign makes a pun – Bierlin. “Bier” is “beer”.

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These guys were playing music on the street. They were very patient with a drunken guy in the crowd who kept trying to take the microphone. I never saw a policeman while I was there. There were women out alone riding bikes. I’m only going from my impressions, but it seemed a very friendly and safe environment.

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Outside shopping. I wish my camera had captured the true colors.

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When I saw this blue and violet night cafe scene I knew I had to paint it. Again, the colors were extraordinary. I wish I could’ve painted this view on location “en plein air”, but it just wasn’t practical. Below is the painting that resulted, and following that is a detail of the same painting. Mollie and I are booked to do a two-person show in November of 2013 at the Loveland Museum-Gallery in Loveland, Colorado. The show will be themed around our Germany trip, and this painting was painted for the upcoming show.

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“Nighttime Cafe”
oil, 24 x 30 inches, Scott Freeman

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