Remission 1 and 2: for Jared H.

Remission 1 and 2; collage, latex and enamel on two panels, 2007.
Wishing Jared Hess every hope that remission holds...


Thanksgiving as a mindset...

Color-your-own turkey decoration: click on, print out and zowie!

Thank you for:

  • Checking back into my wretchedly neglected weblog;

  • Being interested in my work, my thoughts, my life, enough to check in;

  • Paying attention to me in a culture where art as a lifestyle can be a piece of cake, but art as a discipline can be very, very hard;

  • Reading this little piece of folderol!
Life has thrown me some curves recently, but Jehovah is amazing; I'm feeling more grounded than ever.

I've been getting into the studio as much as possible; work has been slow but steady. Digitals and slides of my last spate of work is still in progress; I will post some digitals of new(ish) work very a kind-of early Noel present.

Perhaps some recent thoughts, as well, on general theological issues...ecstasy, violence, etc.; things I've been ruminating on.


Studio New, Phase 5: Finishing touches

Back in the studio again this past Monday (the previous week I hadn't taken any pictures, but had painted the drywall patches, and other details...)
This week I moved in the worktable finally, and most of my paint and other supplies; wrapped some paintings to put on the rack, and some other small things.
(The photos you see here don't include the table, etc. that I moved in this week; these were taken about a week ago.)

I've been getting really anxious to begin new work, so I actually did a little bit of painting on two panels, on my freshly re-papered table. More on that later.

So, here are a few pictures, and hopefully (God willing!) next week I'll have some more of my completely empty old studio, and my newly in-use new studio!


Philadelphia Weekly review today!

Good, did you see the Weekly this morning, fresh from your morning victuals? Well, Roberta Fallon wrote a great review of my and another artist's work (Jaime Treadwell), so go pick up a copy if you haven't already. Here's a link to the Artblog version of her review:

Here also is the link to the Philadelphia Weekly:

Also, just a friendly reminder that the opening reception for my exhibit at Green Line Art Projects is this Friday, at 7 pm. More information/address here:

Last but not least, do go and support Cerulean Arts, showing Jaime Treadwell, a gallery in the edgy (art-wise) Fairmount/Francisville neighborhood; looks like they're doing good things.


Studio New, Phase 4: Fix ceiling; paint floor

Wow...finally got back into the studio again, and pushed, pushed, pushed last evening to pick up some drywall (thanks Andy!), cut it, install it into ornery old plaster, and then patch it, vacuum the floor, trim it and then roll the rest of it. Phew! But I got all that done, and even took some they are:

What will Phase 5 bring? Ah, but you must pay attention...tables may begin moving in soon! Lighting will be one of my next concerns, as well as built-in painting rack.

Below, just as a little extra, is a hanging shot of my latest painting, called Fascia. More about it later.

PS. Pick up a Philadelphia Weekly tomorrow.


Arp was here.

Seen on the sidewalk, outside the Barnes if to say, "why isn't any of MY work in the collection??"

Indeed. I consider Jean Arp to be a highly underrated Modernist. His paintings, especially the wooden cutouts, have been influential on my own work.

He is one of the artists who is said to have quipped, "Sculptures are what you bump into while backing up to look at a painting." If this is rightly attributed to Arp, then it's somewhat ironic, since Arp himself made beautiful, amorphous bronzes and marbles. Has anyone else heard this quote? I've heard other artists' names associated with it. Maybe Yves Klein?

PS. By the way, pick up a Philadelphia Weekly next week. You'll be glad you did.


Towing that old green line...

Some in situ shots from the Green Line Powelton show below; stay tuned for some possible publication/review news later this week:


Studio New, Phase 3: 2nd and wainscoat

Took off Monday (my 31st birthday) to push forward on getting the studio painted. I managed, from about 9:15 to 4:30, to get a second coat on the ceiling and walls, and a nice light dove grey on the wainscoating (really just a chair rail, but I painted it as if it was a wainscoating).

Check out the beautiful texture of the side-lit wall in the second my estimation, drywall doesn't have anything on plaster as far as sensuousness; I really like the look of plaster walls (most of the time). This photo also shows the windows before I removed the painter's tape.

The next step is to vacuum the floor, mop it if it needs it, and then put down a coat or two of battleship grey floor paint...then I'll be ready to move in. These are all the same colors I have in the current studio, and I really came to like them. Here is the photographic evidence:


Studio New, Phase 2: 1st coat

Here, finally, despite lack of internet access at home (a pox on you Cavalier Telephone!), are those promised pictures of phase 2: 1st coat of paint. And thank you, Tim Moyer, for your help and conversation, it was much appreciated.

Next, phase 3: 2nd coat. This is riveting, no?


Artblog review!

Libby Rosof, of Fallon and Rosof fame (read: Artblog, etc.) did a really great review of my show at Green Line Art Projects; go here to read it:

Thanks again to Douglas Witmer ( ) who invited me in the first place.


Kind words from Matthews the Younger

Here is a post with some very kind words from Mr. Rob Matthews, and some ad hoc titles based on Jerry Lee Lewis song titles. I like it:

Check out Rob's work at:


Interlude: Pool

An image of Pool, which was recently sold through Fleisher-Ollman Gallery.

Coming up: photos of painting the new studio.


Studio New, Phase 1: Patching

Began patching and prepping to paint in my new, larger studio, this past Monday evening. Here is some photographic evidence from this morning around 6:15. There was some really nice light coming through the window, so I tried capturing some of it. I basically installed some scraps of drywall I had sitting around to two gaps in the plaster (near the corners on the window-side wall), then patched all the cracks and nail-holes in the walls and ceilings. I may need to add some more drywall in the gaps, since the plaster is so thick...and maybe even screw a separate piece on top, if the cutting is too tedious. Next phase will (Lord willing) be happening next Monday evening: Painting the Ceiling.


Green Line Art Projects show

The email I sent out regarding my show in West Philly:

P. Timothy Gierschick II:
NEW WORK at Green Line Art Projects
August 6th - September 28th, 2007
Reception, September 14th, 2007; 7 PM

The Green Line Art Projects space is at 3649 Lancaster Avenue, in Powelton Village in West Philadelphia.

Hours and directions can be found here:

Also visit:

Below: Knot, latex and enamel on panel, 2007

studio 22nd and Mount Vernon Sts.
Philadelphia, PA 19130

...and, coming up, photos of my progress in patching/painting and otherwise prepping my new, larger studio space (still at the Church Studios). Instead of Studio R...I'm now going to be Studio U. (New nickname for the studio...The Studio is U. Alright, maybe not.) Stay tuned...


Recent paintings

I am exhausted; have been up since 4 this morning, at the studio. So, my eyelids are getting very heavy, and I'll be taking off for bed right after this post publishes (DON"T forget to check out the previous post; it has some pictures of the Gallery Siano hang.)

Below, one of the more recent paintings I've finished; on one of two bedframe pieces...this is the headboard portion of the bed; the other is (in progress; as of yet untitled) on the footboard. This larger one is also untitled, but ideas are emerging... it is, as usual, latex and enamel on found panel.

Below, entitled Knot. Latex and enamel on panel. A free-form freedom...the liberation in restriction....and oh yes; old-fashioned kickash color.

This one is titled (somewhat tentatively) Remission 1, 2. Again, latex and enamel on collage (1950's-era pharmacy prescription slips) on panel.


Gallery Siano opening...

Well, the opening reception for the Gallery Siano exhibit I am included in, Survey, Summer 2007, was two Fridays ago...and I have some pictures to prove it. So, enjoy the pictures, and stay tune for some more pictures of recent work in a post following this one.

These drawings are five of a six part series called Haiku Redux 1-6, and are pencil, latex and enamel on gessoed cardboard.

Thanks, Vicki for the great photos of the show. Go see the work; it's up until August 4th. There's some other really nice work there. And with an artist by the name of Dutch Huff included; how can you go wrong? Come to think of it, just come to the gallery August 3rd in the evening; I'll be there again for First Friday. Enough talking; cue the pictures:


CIVA ruminations, part 1

(Originally sent as part of an email to friends I'd seen at CIVA conference...the theme of which was Transforming Spaces: the virtu(e) and the virtual):

Hello friends; it was good to reconnect with each of you this past week, some more extensively than others. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and am still processing much of what I took in.

On that note, I've still been considering the whole idea of "transformation", specifically around the appropriateness of it, and what constitutes true, careful and loving transformation. I heard one set of voices, for example, quick to caution that certain slants of "transformation" can be elitist, mono-cultural, totalitarian; racist even. Another group of voices acknowledged this, yet made a distinction between "negative" transformation, and the edifying, life-changing and affirming forms and possibilities of transformation. Ken Myers, in his brilliant words based partially around Romans 12, was in this camp.

Interestingly enough, this week on my bus ride to work I was finishing up a Dallas Willard book, The Great Omission, on discipleship, and came across some poignant words on transformation that felt suddenly very apropos. I will say first though, that I was most intrigued with how Allan Wexler articulated his definitions of transformation, in the form of the most important transformation beginning inwardly, and then allowing that to work out, to wherever it would find purchase. And as Allan also said, this sounds incredibly selfish at first. When I first thought about his definition, I didn't agree; it sounded too self-centered; too egocentric. But little did I know I was falling into the easy trap (though partially true) that many of those outside of the art world fall into when critiquing artists...and then I found this quote from Willard which was a nice tap on the shoulder (he prefaces this by denying we are called to firstly "convert" the church, or even the world)...

"Your first move, 'as you go' is, in a manner of speaking: 'convert me'...we begin with ourselves."

In other words, in a Christocentric context of course, we must, to retain all genuineness and humility, start with ourselves in any process of transformation. Here is another quote which also fleshes out a bit more of what true transformation should be like -- and not like:

"He [Christ] did tell us that, when filled with him, we would bear witness of him "to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Witnesses are those who cause others to know; they wit-ness. They are not manipulators - no need of that - though what they do is radically transformative."


Featured soon at Siano...

Hello again; welcome to those who might be visiting for the first time; someone I may have met at are some images to keep you interested, rather than just my prattling.

These drawings are from a few months ago; they will be featured in a large group show at Gallery Siano, opening sometime in July. They are drawn with pencil, latex and enamel on gessoed paperboard. They have the working titles of "Haiku Redux 1 -6".

Forgive the "raw" quality of the pictures; as I said to any inquirer this past weekend of whether I had a website or not, I'm still "tripping into the digital age."


Straight from the brain...

Hello...yes, it's me. I've been a bad blogger recently; when was my last post; more than a month ago? Ouch.

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting for you all to get a bit of a glimpse into my brain, through some journal excerpts (compiled by yours truly). Writing in my studio journal is an important part of my studio times, even when I'm there for only two hours, I still make time to journal. And I write about everything from the weather, to thoughts about next steps on paintings.

So, here are some excerpts; hope you find them interesting, and occasionally insightful:

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006
"Be skeptical of all answers; field all questions."

Thursday, August 10th, 2006
"I need to get myself to slow down; I haven't painted (besides hearts [a work on paper I spent a lot of time on last summer]) for awhile now, so I'm impatient. (Talk less; slow down; think more.)

Thursday, August 17th, 2006
"...up late last night, going through mortgage/house stuff, papers and discussing house colors, etc.
Anyway - this is a studio journal, no? Oh well, all of life is interconnected; it's our flesh that tries to keep the parts separate."

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006
"Began laying out pattern on panel...a shape which reminds me of the pattern my mother uses for quilting a quilt edge - a sort of offset scallop pattern."

Thursday, October 12th, 2006
"...began stenciling shapes on to large door - it really reminded me, as I added each successive shape, that composition complication adds up very quickly. I reacted against the existing white 'shape' (brush pattern) for my first teardrop shape; reacted against that reaction for the second stencil, and so on...each time it became harder, and took more concentration. It reminded me of a short worktime we'd had with an artist, at Messiah - Boothe? - something. [Powers Booth]. He had us look at a still life, and first concentrate only on the verticals, then the horizontals, then the diagonals, etc. It quickly became, with all that concentration, information overload - I felt my spidey-senses saying, 'Whoa, slow down - too much!' A very revealing several ways."

Thursday, October 19th, 2006
"...continued with gesso shapes on door - the composition is still working, but now vastly more complicated. It will be interesting to see what color does for it. Intuition again will kick in, as that 'isolated' element reacts within itself."

Okay, that's enough for now...more later.
CIVA conference this Thursday through Saturday...


Coming soon!

Hello everyone; I just wanted to keep you updated on some events which are coming up in my schedule, and which you may be interested in.

The first is that my 2006 painting (enamel on collage) called Snow Snake, will be exhibited in the Art of the State exhibit at the State Museum of Pennsylvania; June 9th through September 9th. This is the annual statewide juried awards exhibit at the museum; Philadelphia is usually well-represented. I'll post a picture of the painting soon. A website on this: (scroll down through events).

Secondly, in June (the 14th through the 17th) I will be attending the Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) bi-annual conference, being held at Messiah College in Grantham, PA. (My alma mater). I am really looking forward to this, as it's my first time. I'll also be able to visit with some of my old profs, and the seminars this year will be split up into several tracks, one of which will be on incorporating the visual arts into the corporate worship space, something which I'm very interested in. Another website:

And thirdly, a small solo exhibit is in the works, for July through August (still tentative) at the Green Line/Powelton Village cafe, where I had my painting on panel, Sheaf, this past late-winter. More information on this later. Should be a good opportunity to see several of my pieces together at the same time. Yea. Yet another link (go support!):

There are some other exciting art-things happening or about to emerge, but they are even more tentative, so I'll keep my mouth shut/hands still for now.

Peace out.


Meditation on lions and lambs

March is several weeks past us, but the weather typical to it is certainly hanging on for dear life…one example is snow on April 16th. Not unprecedented, but unusual. My favorite adage about this time of year is March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb. It’s especially thought-worthy this year, since the lion’s been growling around longer than usual, not letting the poor lamb get its hoof in the door. Even the Pascal lamb was shooed out ungraciously.

A few weeks ago, a sermon I heard referenced the famous “Peaceable Kingdom” passage from the prophet Isaiah. For some reason, I never had caught on that the two animals found in my favorite March saying are also mentioned near each other in that passage: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” (11:6).

Another interesting connection came to mind that day when I realized that two of the most powerful, anthropomorphistic names used for Jesus Christ are the Lamb of God, and the Lion of Judah. My thoughts went immediately to the Isaiah passage, and I soon realized that, though we long for and work towards the day when these animals will truly lie down together in peace, only in the person of Jesus has this already happened. He IS the lion and the lamb, simultaneously. And not just any lamb or lion, but the sacrificed son of Jehovah; the ferocious and gentle leader of the cultural and spiritual Jewish people. What an awesome spectacle of cosmic give-and-take: only Christ could handle encompassing both extremes of ultimate sacrifice and spiritual militancy.

Therein we find where our peace as Christ-followers (disciples) lies: in the person of Jesus Christ, the one part of the Godhead which our kind – humankind – actually had the ability to touch, see, hear, and smell in temporal space and time. He is the only place where our lions and our lambs can genuinely find rest; together, on the same soil. True biblical peace deals with shalom; wholeness; perfection (God's; not ours). When we speak His name, when we act in His name, we are in great ways bringing a bit more of that shalom, peace - Christ - to our environs.

This is a sobering thought when one dwells for awhile on the pointless waste of war that is raging in the world in this season – and we see some blood on our own hands. For the image of a lion is not used only to describe Jesus…it’s also used by the apostle Simeon (Peter) to describe Satan, “your enemy,” who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8). This is a season ruled by, and largely given over to, the lions (little l) of the world. And much as we can promote peace – shalom – in putting the name of our peace to work – Jesus Christ - we can also fight against violence in the same way, with the only weapon of offense given to Christ-followers: the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17). And what more powerful word is there than “Jesus Christ”? Surely more powerful than all the bitterly cold winds of March that somehow have gotten lost in the month of April.

Sisters and brothers, sharpen your weapon.


My testimonial from Friday night

Friends; what follows is the text of my artist testimonial that I shared at the CCO Art Auction and Open Studios this past Friday...

P. Timothy Gierschick II / CCO Art Auction and Open Studios / March 23, 2007

About four years ago, a group of six artists, who had met under various circumstances, some by working at the same art-handling company, eventually found out that each of them were also followers of Christ. So they began taking advantage of this by meeting in each other’s living rooms, critiquing work; socializing and supporting each other.

I was part of that original six, which eventually through God’s provision became the group who joyously moved into these studios. We became known as the Church Studios, and so began this wonderful partnership with Olivet Covenant Presbyterian Church, largely through the vision of our friend and fellow artist, and now Chicagoan, Dayton Castleman.

Now, it’s hard to overestimate the great importance of something so simple and basic as space, on an artist’s life. Before we had this dedicated space, most of us had little or none to work with. Brendan and Duy I think, were working out of little corners of rooms, and I’m not sure Keith or Dayton had any space at all – I was working in a small basement with bad light, and no usable walls. For some of us, this was our first studio, fresh from school. So, just through providing this space alone, Olivet has done a great and lasting deed, through the impact it’s had on us artists, our practice and faith, and therefore our impact on the world.

Since 2003, we’ve gone through many different phases, struggles, and joys together. Much of the struggle is caused by our decision [or necessity, depending on how you look at it] to put ourselves, as both disciples of Christ, and committed visual artists, in that seemingly incongruous gap between the church and the contemporary art world. [When I say church, I mean community of believers, informal and formal]. And I say gap, because, even though the overlap of the church and the arts has begun to re-form, it is still a touchy place, in its infancy…in many ways, the church is only now taking a really sincere, hard look at its relationship to the art world, and the many possibilities that are there. Hitting us more at home are the sometimes tense and hard– but continuously rewarding – stumblings and workings-out of the exact form of our place in and relationship with this fine congregation.

In many real and gritty ways, that is exactly what we as artists of the Church Studios are doing: bringing form to an idea which has few contemporaries. Believing that all of life should inherently be imbued by the Gospel, we continue as artists to build [and re-build] that ruined land-bridge between the church and the art world. It’s all for the better then, to partner with people like the CCO – a group which, like us, believe that all of life is for the glory of God, and that we should actively engage it, in increasingly redemptive and authentic ways.

A minute ago, I mentioned space, and how important it is… because of this space, my own work has been able to grow and mature, and establish its own size, rather than be dictated solely by less-than-desirable environs. In addition, this community has gently prodded me to become more serious, more accountable, more committed, in my time and involvement here. Because of this, my work has become increasingly accepted in the larger art world. Simply put, even for me alone, this place has already been a thousand-fold blessing. Mornings for me at the studio involve a short devotional and journaling time…and often the blessings which come to mind during that time are just overwhelming.

If you ask any one of the artists here how this overall process I’ve been talking about is going, you’ll likely get a two-part answer: it’s going wonderfully; but it’s really hard. Being an artist these days for most of us means having, essentially, a second [or third!] job. And throw a child in there – ask Keith about that – or a serious time commitment to one’s home congregation, which I and some others have, the equation becomes even more complicated. But I find a continuing joy in the entire process. That joy, people, is what we feel when we are doing what we’re made to do and in the power of the Holy Spirit fitting pieces into the wholeness, the Shalom, that is the full Gospel of peace – as much as we can know it in our present consciousness.

Now, this is all fine and good, but there are even more details that make up this life that I have somewhat philosophized. There’s studio fees; time commitments; mandatory meetings…icy parking lots. So, I thank each of you for showing up here, and by doing so, validating and encouraging this process that we have taken up as artists and followers of Christ. Your presence here, your bids at the auction, your donations, handshakes and encouragement go a long way in the quality of this event and these studios, and in the ministry of our partners in the Coalition for Christian Outreach.

Last night, I heard Psalm 135 read, and a phrase stuck out to me as having a particular poignancy. In the fourth verse, David says the Lord has taken Israel as his “peculiar treasure.” I thought, what a great way of thinking about ourselves as well, grafted as we are, in our own peculiarities, into the people of God. And it speaks also, to our own life, work, relationships; all that we are made of and that God has placed in our hearts.

So…for your support of the Church Studios, this “peculiar treasure;” thank you.


Back from tha dead...

(Untitled so far...enamel on collage of old prescription slips)

(also Untitled so, graphite and gesso on paper)

Hey there everyone...yes, I know I've been gone far too long...I have many excuses at the ready, but...why bother? It doesn't change anything. Why not, I ask you, shouldn't I just offer you some pictures of recent work, and leave it at that? Hey, sounds good to me. Cheeky? Perhaps...but I've been drinking French press for an hour, while listening to Karate, so I'm slightly wired.

Above are some images of some new work...and thanks to those of you who came out last evening to the CCO/Church Studios art auction and open studios was a great success, and you all helped to make it so...

For those of you who may be interested, sometime this week I will be posting the comments I presented at the event.


A Worthwhile Read...

[NB: I highlighted below, in purple, a paragraph that "Ethnonites" from a more conservative background will find particularly ironic, since several of the women, I believe, were from the Mennonite church. -Tim]

Washington Comment
Posted: 3/9/2007
** ** ** ** ** **
Inside Iran
by J. Daryl Byler
Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office -

** ** ** ** ** **
During the last three decades, both nations have acted out of their respective traumas and have added to a growing list of grievances against the other.
** ** ** ** ** **

"My picture of the American people is that they are nice, compassionate and ready to help their neighbors,” Hasein Sharif, a 23-year-old reporter with Iran Press TV told me during my recent travel to Iran with a delegation of U.S. religious leaders. “What I don’t understand is why your country always seems to be going to war,” mused Hasein.

Thirteen U.S. Christians traveled to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Feb. 17-25, to explore how religious leaders in both nations can help pave the way for mutual respect and peaceful relations at this time of increased tension between the United States and Iran.

Our delegation met with Christian and Muslim leaders, government officials and ordinary Iranian people. Our final day in Iran included meetings with former President Mohammad Khatami and current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The meeting with Ahmadinejad was the first time an American delegation had met with an Iranian president in Iran since the Islamic revolution in 1979. The trip grew out of relationships that Mennonite Central Committee has carefully developed while working in Iran during the past 17 years. Hasein’s comment was only one of many that reminded our delegation just how little Iranians and Americans understand about each other today. It quickly became clear that we operate out of two different narratives.

The American story begins in 1979, the year Iranian students took 52 American’s hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and held them for 444 days. The Iranian story begins in 1953, when the U.S. CIA joined the British to support a coup to overthrow Iran's democratically elected leader, Mohammed Mossadeq. In his place, they installed Shah Pahlevi, who grew increasingly repressive and detained and tortured his opponents. During the last three decades, both nations have acted out of their respective traumas and have added to a growing list of grievances against the other. In our meetings, we talked about the role of religion in transforming the trauma that undergirds the U.S.-Iranian conflict. We also talked about nuclear proliferation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role of women in Iranian society.

Role of religion in transforming U.S.-Iran relations
Our conversations in Iran confirmed that Islam and Christianity share concerns for justice, compassion and the dignity of all human beings. These common values provided a significant bridge for dialogue between our delegation and our Iranian hosts. "There will be no peace among nations unless there is peace and dialogue between religious leaders,” said Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Sebu Sarkissian, head of the largest Christian body in Iran, with some 150,000 members.

Nuclear proliferation
Iranians spoke with almost unanimous support for Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. At the same time, many said that developing nuclear weapons is against the tenants of the Islamic faith. As a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is allowed to develop nuclear energy. While Iran has not violated the NPT, it has failed to disclose all of its nuclear activities as required by an additional “Safeguards Agreement.” As a result, the U.N. Security Council has imposed sanctions on Iran and demanded that it stop enriching uranium. "We want to exercise our rights under the NPT, not more, not less,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Saeed Jalili. “Weapons of mass destruction are inhuman, immoral and illegitimate,” Jalili said. Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani, a popular Friday prayers leader in Iran, told us that there is an Islamic religious declaration or “fatwa” banning the development and use of weapons of mass destruction. “All Grand Ayatollahs agree about this,” said Kashani. What does one make of all these benign assertions about Iran’s nuclear program? Is it gullible to believe that Iran only wants nuclear energy? As recently as late October 2006, Mohamed El Baradei, head of the IAEA, said that he is not convinced that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Even U.S. intelligence analysts differ on Iran’s intentions, and on how soon Iran could produce a nuclear weapon if it wanted to. For me, the trip to Iran brought back memories of a similar trip to Iraq in 2002. One of Saddam Hussein’s cabinet officials met with our delegation and bluntly told us that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, and to please tell members of Congress to “come and see for themselves.” It now appears that he was telling the truth. Is it also possible that Iran is telling the truth about its nuclear program? In the end, it comes down to an issue of trust. Sadly, trust between Iran and the United States is extremely low. This much is clear, Iran is developing the capacity that will allow it to someday produce a nuclear weapon if it so chooses. This is reason enough why the United States should engage in direct talks with Iran, rather than further isolating a nation that views itself as a prominent regional player.

In light of President Ahmadinejad’s recent hosting of a conference about the Holocaust, and his threatening statements about Israel, we knew it was important to raise these issues directly with him. We pressed Ahmadinejad that such events and comments make it difficult for us to advocate in the United States for a better relationship with Iran. In person, his position on the Holocaust is more nuanced than his public statements. Rather than outright denying that the Holocaust took place, his question is, “Why are Palestinians paying the price for atrocities that happened in Europe?” While Ahmadinejad’s concern for the Palestinian people is laudatory, one hopes he will learn to raise questions in ways that do not diminish the reality of the Holocaust and the trauma that it still holds for the Jewish community. With regard to comments about “wiping Israel off the map,” Ahmadinejad said that he is “not talking about war” but about a political solution. Rather than a Jewish state, he envisions that all Jews, Christians and Muslims – including Palestinian refugees scattered throughout the region – should have the right to participate in a referendum to select a government that will represent the will of the majority. “Our proposal is a principled proposal,” he said, “Palestinians should have the right to choose.” Our delegation reminded Ahmadinejad that hostile rhetoric – whether from the United States or Iran – does matter and contributes to the tension between our nations.

Role of women
Upon landing in Tehran, it is a startling thing to hear the flight attendant announce that, “By decree of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, all women must wear a head covering.” The women on our delegation found this to be a difficult challenge. Psychologically, they expressed that they felt invisible. Tom Friedman wrote recently in the New York Times that, in Iran, “women vote, hold office, are the majority of its university students, and are fully integrated in the workforce.” Our delegation found all this to be true, and yet, for whatever reason, it was difficult to schedule meetings with women’s groups in Iran. On the last day of our visit, the women finally met with several Iranian women professors. In our meetings with several ayatollahs, we asked about the role of women. Ayatollah Kashani said that, in Islam, the women are highly valued, “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the men. Ayatollah Taskiri said that, “In Islam, men and women are equal, but have different duties.” Still, he said that it is possible for a woman in Iran to become a Grand Ayatollah.

Next steps
Our delegation has encouraged both the U.S. and Iranian governments to engage in face-to-face talks. “I have no reservations about conducting talks with American officials,” Ahmadinejad told us, “If we see some good will.” We were encouraged upon returning home to hear Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice say that the United States will participate in Iraqi-led regional talks that include Iran and Syria. Hopefully, this will be a first step toward direct bilateral talks between the United States and Iran on a range of issues. In visits with the State Department and congressional offices this week, we heard significant interest in finding ways to talk with Iran. On the other hand, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) recently introduced legislation – H.R. 957 -- to strengthen existing sanctions against Iran. The bill has 22 co-sponsors. Instead of more sanctions, advocates should ask their representative to support congressional hearings that explore the barriers to direct talks between the United States and Iran. Toward the end of our time in Iran, I did a 45-minute TV interview with Hasein Sharif. We talked about the purpose of our delegation, about the Mennonite history of pacifism, and about why nice Americans go to war. At the end of the interview he told me that he had read on MCC’s website that I had engaged in a 40-day fast before the U.S.-led war with Iraq. “If it looks like your country is going to attack Iran and you decide to fast again,” said Hasein, “I will fast with you.”

I hope that won’t be necessary.

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Photo/Image provided courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory

I am back, but not fully; it's been a busy time. This past weekend I was in Pittsburgh, at the CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach) conference, as artist-in-residence, sharing with college students about my art, philosophy, faith and practice. I attended the Jubilee conference in 1999 as a student at Messiah, and loved it; it is still a wonderful conference, seeking to encourage students to allow their faith and belief to permeate all of whatever career path they take. Thanks to Yvonne Boudreaux for the invitation.

So, I will share more about that once I get my things together; for now though, I have a haiku I wrote while at my studio this morning. Perhaps you'll enjoy it:


Like the early sun,
We see your edges clearer
through the clouds.


Sheaf at AltGeo

Here's a shot courtesy of Douglas, of Sheaf at AltGeo:

...looks somehow more cosmic next to the Linn Meyers drawing.

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