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


Aug 20

Dementia Americana: The Persistence of Forgetting

Taught by Ward Regan
7:30 p.m. at Nowadays

Sign Up - $15

Aug 21

Prospect Park Philosophy | Art vs. Reality

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:15 p.m. at Prospect Park (Grand Army Entrance)

Sign Up - $15

Aug 21

Philosophy Club | "God is Dead"

Taught by Jeanne Proust
8 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Aug 22

Margaret Fuller, Beethoven, and Revolution in the Minds of Women

Taught by Christina Katopodis
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Aug 24

OlioHouse Finale | The Problem with the End of the World

Taught by Michael Prettyman
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Aug 28

Eastern Philosophy and Relationships: The Interplay of Yin & Yang

Taught by Darryl Aiken-Afam
7 p.m. at The Assemblage | NoMad

Sign Up - $15

Sep 17

Mediated Intimacy: The Dating App Landscape

Taught by Pani Farvad
7 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Sep 19

* Sold Out * OlioTrip | Cienfuegos, Cuba

Taught by Teresita Levy
10 a.m. at Cienfuegos, Cuba

Sign Up - $


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