Last week my concept of art was expanded—or should I say “exploded”?—in a stunning presentation that Craig Goodworth entitled, “Art, Spirituality and the Body.” Craig demonstrated art that flows from a grounded spirituality, a spirituality that rises up from physicality, materiality, geography and culture.
According to his bio, “Craig Goodworth is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice lies on the boundary between landscapes of theology and poetics. Working in sculpture, drawing, installation, performance and prose, core themes in his art are the experience/idea of the body, and place.” Drawing a metaphor from the Passion of Jesus, Craig explained to us that his work is “Saturday art.” It occupies the liminal waiting space between the pain of the crucifixion (Friday) and the triumph of the resurrection (Sunday). Light and shadows intermingle. It is art with “real world contact.”
Craig divided his presentation into sections dealing with the human body, the body of the animal, the Body of Christ, the social body and the body of earth. In the section on the body of the animal, he told of a three day experience in the high desert of Arizona where he worked with the carcass of an elk, exploring it with a camera, turning it into a three-day experience of performance art, with the intention of understanding and living out the three days of Easter. (See Triduum Excerpt.)
In the section on the social body, he spoke of the importance of place (“You are where you live”) and presented “Liminal Space,” an installation and performance-based art project situated in Phoenix, Arizona, Craig’s own home town. An empty warehouse was transformed into a welcoming place of immigrant history, a social sculpture, as Craig put it. One of his intentions was “to create a space in a decaying place that would be hospitable to the other.” The way Craig links geography with spirituality reminds me of Kathleen Norris and her reflections on the Dakotas. Christianity Today documented “Liminal Space” in a short DVD. (See "You Are Where You Live.")
“Installation art,” “performance art,” were new concepts to me, and I’m intrigued. Craig has made art a way of life. He sees—and portrays—life from angles that startle, like looking into the rib cage of a cow and discovering a temple. Concerning the connection between art and spirituality, Craig says that we go through two conversions: one from the world to God and the other from God back into the world. He is working—drawing, sculpting, writing, installing—his way through his second conversion.
Craig and his wife Marie Christine attend the unprogrammed worship service at North Valley Friends. Not brought up Quaker, they are attracted to the way Quakers emphasize waiting on God, which is a type of liminal community space.
He ended his presentation with three queries (the last one a question from CS Lewis’ novel, ‘Till We Have Faces): 1) Describe your conversion from the world to God, and then from God back to the world; 2) How do you connect your spirituality with your body?; 3) Is holy wisdom clear and thin like water or thick and dark like blood?
I’ve been pondering that last one for a week. No answers yet.
Craig Goodworth’s whole website is well worth checking out.