The Circular Road: Art and the Religious Imagination

Cy Twombly - Fifty Days at Iliam: Shield of Achilles

In the mists of humanities beginning, art and religion were the same things. We have come a long way since then, unfortunately.

For a long time now there has been a war in American culture between religion and contemporary art, between artists and priests. Contemporary artists are often cast as godless marauders bent on the destruction of “our values” which are inevitably white middle-class Christian values. 

This is a false war. It is predicated on profound misunderstandings of what creativity is and what art can be.  Institutional religions and an obscenely swollen art market benefit equally from this conflict, but it comes at a cost for the rest of us.

As a result of all this noise, many of us cannot say what art is, and really have no working definition of what, if anything, is sacred. We can’t see past the God and Art babble. And yet, it is a trope and a cliché to speak of great art, even so-called secular art, in religious terms: sublime, spellbinding, enchanting, transcendent. Sacred.

Why do we do this?

In this Olio we will examine our assumptions about what art is, what constitutes creativity and look at the “two lives” of art- the goopy and messy creation of art in the studio, and the critical presence of the witness in completing a work of art.

Praxis- learning by doing- will be our guide as we challenge the primacy of the subject/object divide; another false war.  We will interrogate the ancient and heartening realness of metaphor- our worlds are built on an ability to communicate to others, from inside our own light and darkness, via a path deeper than words.

This deeper path is not just for artists and mystics, it is the birthright of all of us. Creativity-an indwelling and generative font-is ready and waiting.

We may not fully understand it, but art proves a still-dwelling magic in the world; art is something sacred in and of itself. It is what we make of what we are made.




Location: Strand Bookstore

828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

The Rare Book Room at Strand Bookstore boasts an elegant venue for our Friday night residency.




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Other upcoming Olios


Oct 15

Olio Seminar | Kafka will Ruin Your Life and Make You Laugh About it

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:30 p.m. at Strong Rope Brewery

Sign Up - $60

Oct 21

Attraction or Fetish? Exploring Racial Trends in Dating

Taught by Kim Nguyen
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Oct 22

The Fear of Leisure

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7:30 p.m. at Threes Brewing // Greenpoint

Sign Up - $15

Oct 23

Eros: The Geometry of Desire

Taught by Jamie Warren
7:30 p.m. at Moon Rise Studio

Sign Up - $15

Oct 27

Olio Breakfast Club | Frankenstein: Who is the Monster?

Taught by Patricia Kim
1 p.m. at Threes Brewing // Greenpoint

Sign Up - $15

Oct 30

Olio Workshop | Modern Anxiety and Ancient Healing Arts

Taught by Darryl Aiken-Afam
7:30 p.m. at St John's Episcopal Church

Sign Up - $125

Nov 4

Olio Fiction Workshop | Challenging the Received Boundaries of Genre

Taught by Kat Rejsek
7 p.m. at Little Roy // Flatbush

Sign Up - $175

Nov 15

Do You Have Kids? The Politics of Motherhood

Taught by Ifeoma Ike
7:30 p.m. at The William Vale Hotel

Sign Up - $15

Nov 22

Anti-Education

Taught by Vishwa Adluri
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20


Find out when we launch new classes!