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


Feb 25

What Would Buffy Do? Radical Feminism and the Slayer

Taught by Jamie Warren
7:30 p.m. at Neuehouse Madison Sq.

Sign Up - $20

Feb 28

Into the Mystic: Music & the Moving Image

Taught by Whitney George
7:30 p.m. at Blender Workspace

Sign Up - $20

Mar 6

The 2nd Amendment Explained

Taught by Lawrence Cappello
7:30 p.m. at Berg'n

Sign Up - $15

Mar 13

Philosophy Club | Can We Say Everything?

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Mar 15

Rethinking Refugee Trauma and Mental Health

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

Sign Up - $15

Mar 16

OlioHouse | Willpower and the Right to Be Lazy

Taught by Jeanne Proust
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Mar 20

Reimagining the Carceral State: Art, Imagination, and an Abolitionist Future

Taught by Marissa Gutierrez-Vicario
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Mar 23

Mar 27

Urban Development: From Reconstruction to Gentrification

Taught by Lauren Hudson
7:30 p.m. at Berg'n

Sign Up - $15

Mar 28

Catfishing: The Artist as Trickster in Factual Fictions

Taught by Ted Barrow
7:30 p.m. at Blender Workspace

Sign Up - $20

May 29

Composing Beauty: Mapplethorpe’s Quest for Perfection

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7 p.m. at BAM Fisher

Sign Up - $20


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