Selah Art goes to Yale University

Yale University has accepted artistic contributions for The Graduate Conference in Religion and Ecology for the first time. The conference will be held on March 3rd. I turned in two artworks amidst a hectic schedule of papers, readings, and exams. I am thrilled to bits and humbled that God would use these works in this conference this year and on this topic.  

Here is the call I answered:

Earth’s Lamentation: Ecological Grief and the Paradox of Hope

The 7th Annual Graduate Conference in Religion and Ecology has opened its Call for Papers and Creative/Artistic Submissions. Submissions for papers and creative/artistic works are due November 30, 2022. The conference will be held on March 3, 2023.

The theme of this year’s conference, “Earth’s Lamentation: Ecological Grief and the Paradox of Hope,” invites participants to consider the necessity of lamentation and the complexity of hope in the face of climate change. We are seeking submissions from graduate students that might address topics such as, but not limited to:

  • How we can or should lament with the Earth as individuals and religious communities; how we can learn from, share in, and support diverse forms or traditions of grieving
  • The dual nature of Earth’s grief (the dual pain of ecosystems and individuals from 1. human-imposed crises and 2. being forgotten or forsaken in this pain)
  • What it means for us to be both perpetrators and victims of ecological crisis at the same time (and who is included in “us”)
  • Over-reliance on myths of resilience (ecological, individual, community)
  • Problems with deluded, “greenwashed,” toxically positive, self-serving, and/or colonized hope; if (or how) religious traditions promote these false hopes
  • If (or how) radical hope can still be claimed in particular (religious and nonreligious) communities in the face of Earth’s great ecological grief
  • The intersectional nature of grief: how the ecological crisis is mirrored and compounded by social, political, and economic crises related to race, class, gender, sexuality, etc.

As in years past, we will be accepting proposals for academic presentations related to this theme. Each accepted presenter will be invited to attend the conference in-person for a presentation and Q&A session. We are happy to work with virtual presenters if travel will be a barrier to your participation.

For the first time, the Graduate Conference in Religion and Ecology is also pleased to accept creative and artistic submissions. The climate crisis is personal in its impact and complex in its solutions, and we are excited to welcome all ways of knowing and engaging.

We encourage you to submit creative expressions relating to this year’s theme, including written word (e.g., poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction), spoken word, musical compositions, two-dimensional visual art (e.g., photography, painting, drawing, collages), and short video submissions. Accepted submissions will be posted on the conference website and, as format and resources permit, displayed or performed physically at the conference venue.

Here is how I contributed:

Created to Bloom

Sujatha Balasundaram

Master of Theological Studies, Duke Divinity School

Created to Bloom is a ‘reverse’ mandala influenced by Madhubani art. As a meditative tool, the artwork emphasizes the relationship of the vibrant flower to the void in the center of the flower. The ornate floral patterns that fill the double outside lines and the vibrancy of saturated colors are the Bharni-Kachni characteristics of Madhubani art. The Indian folk-art form illuminates the Creator-creation relationship of the Christian tradition. We are created from nothing (center) and invited to participate with the Creator God in keeping God’s creation (Genesis 1-2).

The complexity of Hope in today’s ecological grief lies in embracing our purpose and reliance on the Lord of the Sabbath. There is much work to be done in rectitude of the environmental crisis. But work without the Creator is futile. In contrast to the density of colors and patterns in the other rings, the blank seventh ring depicts dependence on the Creator. The day of rest or the Sabbath is significant for the work that we do. Hope lies in the rhythm of creative participation with God and rest in God.

We are created to bloom!

The Estuary

Sujatha Balasundaram

Master of Theological Studies, Duke Divinity School

The prophet Ezekiel speaks of the river of God flowing out of the temple into the sea, making the meeting space, the estuary fresh and teeming with life and healing in Ezekiel 47: 8-12.

The Estuary envisions the river of God in light blue, mingling with the sea in dark blue. There are various kinds of fish and trees at the estuary. The vibrance of life comes with intermingling—the performance of faith in the community.

This piece has visible roots in Madhubani art techniques like double lines and ornate floral patterns signifying abundance. Grief is recognized in the distance between the energetic drawing and the ecological crisis, showing the unbelieving world the beauty of Creation. Madhubani art is usually hopeful and festive. Faith performed through loving God, and the neighbor will close the gap between the current state of ecological health and this exuberant vision of life.

My Ebenezer (blog post instead of a Stone as in 1 Sam 7:12)

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help, I’ve come.

The lyrics of the hymn Come thou Fount of every blessing rings in my heart as I acknowledge God’s grace and mercy

Every day as I get ready to face the world, I wonder, “why me, Lord?” I really do not belong among these bright minds at Duke Divinity. And every day, I leave my apartment, remembering that I cannot face another class or lecture without God’s grace. It is truly God’s strength that has carried me through.

My prayer:

O to grace how great a debtor
  Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
  Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
  Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
  Seal it for Thy courts above.

Published by Sujatha

Wife to a highly creative man, Uday Balasundaram who is passionately in love with Jesus and a mother to 2 precious little ones, Nadira and Aradhya.

3 thoughts on “Selah Art goes to Yale University

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