Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Adsum - Holly Schapker Art Inspired by Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises

I was right (finally!) ~ the painting from Holly Schapker's Adsum exhibition depicted in my last post is of Ignatius' own shoes, worn and dilapidated, which sit in his rooms in Rome.  A few months ago I saw a video of a visit to those rooms. I thought that I remembered the camera resting on those shoes as the narrator commented on their condition, evidence of a man who walked many miles and spent little on his own needs.  

The shoes also remind me of Ignatius' frequent reference to himself as a pilgrim.  I've been thinking about that quite a bit in the past several months, because within that time frame I've listened both to an extended Jesuit commentary on spiritual pilgrimage as our life's journey and to Barbara Brown Taylor's reflection at Chautauqua last summer on having abandoned the word journey as a metaphor in favor of a focus of living in the present moment.  I think that one of life's many paradoxes is that we do both simultaneously, and it's interesting to see where a particular individual places his or her emphasis at any given time.

What you can't really see in the online print is that the shoes are bordered at the top by stars ~ the combination intended to indicate that "Ignatius walked miles on the ground but gazed toward the stars," said the artist, Holly Schapker.  Holly is a delightful young woman who spoke simply and lovingly yesterday of the impact that the Spiritual Exercises have had upon her life ~ of her surprise to find so many feminine elements in Ignatius' approach, of the contemporary feel to prayer in the Exercises, and of how coming to understand that she is the co-creator of her work with God has changed her art.

The paintings are huge ~ I guess if I had paid attention to the dimensions on the website, I would have known that, but their size was a dramatic surprise to me.  In the icon of the older Ignatius, and in the painting of his shoes, his robes and the sidewalk are covered with maps from various parts of the world; they were pasted into a collage and then painted over, so they are faint but insistent: a reminder of the movements of Jesuits in mission all over the globe.  I think I've mentioned before that my very Presbyterian missiology professor in seminary is much enamored of the Jesuits and their passion for and approach to world-wide mission, which began immediately in the 16th century and set a new tone for understanding God's activity in cultures other than those of western Europe.

One of the most beautiful paintings, in my view, is of the Manresa woman, who appears in Ignatius' Autobiography as an anonymous but strong influence on his life and prayer.  And the painting of the donkey is exquisite in its texture and detail.  You'll have to read the book to get the whole impact, but the gist of it is this: early in his new life of faith, Ignatius let the donkey he was riding determine the direction they would take, thereby avoiding a possibly disastrous encounter.  Holly interprets the story as one of surrender of the will; I've tended to think of it as evidence that even Ignatius, the great master of discernment, got off to a rocky start.  I suppose that, again, it's a matter of both/and. 

Adsum by the way means "I am here" ~ Mary's response to the angel Gabriel, indicating presence and availablity to serve God, and a hallmark of Ignatian spirituality.

I see that the exhibit is headed to St. Louis in June ~ and I know that some of my friends are there and reading this!


  1. How about coming and giving me a guided tour. That's the only way any of it will make any sense to me!

  2. thanks for sharing this art. I am listening to the hymn you recently posted. recognizing moments of survival are part of the journey (I still dig the word)

  3. Loved your art interpretation. How cool to hear the artist create and speak out of her own Exercises. The art itself is simple, beautiful, meaningful and moving. Thanks for introducing this gifted woman to us.