Photos from Art: Vocabulary for the Soul

Photos from Art: Vocabulary for the Soul

Recently, I had the privilege of joining a dozen fine folks at King's Fold Retreat Centre, just outside of Cochrane, Alberta, for a weekend of faith and art. Julie and Sam Drew have been leading Art: Vocabulary for the Soul workshops for a number of years and I cannot imagine a better place to put creatives in touch with their Creator.

This weekend was a reminder to me of the beauty of every creative soul, the power of art to reach beneath the surface of things, and the majesty of creation itself. I'm grateful for all of those who shared some of their stories with me on the weekend, and for every act of creation I got to witness. One of my responses was to take photos. A lot of photos. I've whittled them down, somewhat, here. 

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Workshop Recap: Altered Books with Penny Torres

Workshop Recap: Altered Books with Penny Torres

I've never altered a book before.

Sure, I've highlighted and underlined and jammed a thousand sticky notes into the pages to mine the goodness from a book for posterity. But I have never transformed a book into a work of art.

Tonight, Penny Torres is going to teach me how to alter a book. 

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A Video and Photos From our Blue Christmas Opening

Saturday, December 6 was a historic Bleeding Heart day. We opened our new space at 9132 118th ave. Our first show, Blue Christmas, welcomed guests to take in blown glass by Keith Walker, landscapes by Dawn Saunders Dahl and participation by ... you.

This video lays out exactly what Blue Christmas is all about, and why you should most definitely pay us a visit this month.

And here are 13 photos from the opening.

Were you there? Do you plan on attending? Please share any feedback or questions below.

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When Artists Get the Keys to Church, in 13 Pictures (With Video)

On Saturday, November 23, Jim Robertson curated (and largely created) a worship experience called Reign of Christ the King. This 'Feast Day', in Christian tradition, focusses on the rule of Jesus in the world. What does it mean to say Jesus is king of all, when so many don't even believe in his existence, and especially not his everlasting life? What does it mean to say God is still in control, in the face of Ferguson and Ebola and the middle east? It means a lot that is perhaps best understood beyond reason and rationale – beyond the brain and into the heart. Through image, sound, language, dance and practice.

All of these elements were brought together at St.Paul's Anglican Church on November 23, when dozens of us came together to create an experience for 'one night only'.

I can't describe what that kind of experience is like – when artists get the keys to church for an evening. But I can show you. And I will, in 13 pictures and a video.

Jim and Jesus

When one walks into the room, there may be confusion. Surprise. 'What the ...?'

You've got a lot of explaining to do, Jim Robertson. Here, Jim does explain, and does it well, walking us through the evening's activities and sharing words from his deep well.

What do you see when you see

The gathering is split into times of singing and reading and listening and sharing together, as well as time for a short dance. Then there is the bulk of the evening, the 'fat middle' where we are on our own to wander through a series of stations. This station, at the back, invites participants to pick up chalk and write (or draw) answers to some guiding questions. Questions like 'What do you see when you see Jesus in others?"

Christ the King

A poem written for the evening by EmTee (and featured in the video below), peers into the various names for Christ. So does the installation piece above, acting as another worship station. 

Blessings of Brokenness

Rocks feature heavily in Jim Robertson's Interface Worship experiences. This display is my favourite. I'm not alone. I once heard Jim recall the incredible story of finding these rocks, years apart and yet two halves of one whole. Behold The Blessings of Brokenness. 

Crown of thorns

Another favourite piece of mine, this station features a large stone, the 'stone the builders rejected' crowned with some very painful looking thorns. It is accompanied, as all the stations are, with a written reflection, either curated or written by Jim Robertson. 

carnations and cross

In one of the evenings first movements, the congregation each brings a carnation up to lay at the bottom of this beautiful wooden cross. At the bottom of the cross regal robes are draped. It forms a beautiful backdrop to the rest of our evening together, and at the end of the night we will surround this scene for Communion.


Light plays a big part in the evening, and so it should, as Jesus has declared himself Light of the World. I can't get enough of this retro star lamp. If Jim ever wants to get rid of this piece, he knows where to find me.

prayer bowl

Interface Worship uses prayer bowls heavily. These liturgical objects are accompanied by written meditations and invoke images of prayers rising like incense, burning in bowls.

coloured robes

The Prodigal Son story forms part of our evening. We are embraced by the king. We are robed in his righteousness. These colourful robes are put on by the participants near the end of the evening, as we gather round for communion. The colours also evoke 'the lilies of the file' - lilies which remind us not to worry, because if God dresses those flowers so beautifully, won't he also care for you and I? 

Windows to turn

These vintage windows rotate, and as they do, the view through them changes. Reflects. Refracts. Windows for a few newer stations at the back of the room, and offer rich metaphors.


And what would the evening be without these beautiful fabrics hanging above? These colours are rich with liturgical symbolism, and set the stage perfectly for the evening experience. Always look up.


Can you smell those fresh carnations? A reminder that engaging all five senses is a powerful way to connect with God and one another.

TRINITY - low light floor candles reflected

The simplicity of candles in the dark remains a favourite image of mine from this evening. Here, a trinity of candles shines small and unassuming. So low I have to nearly lay on the ground to photograph them. But if the Reign of Christ the King matters anywhere it is here, in the dark and low places.

I hope that from those 13 strands you can weave together something of the whole. And if not, perhaps this video will help. And if not, there's always another nterface Worship experience ahead.

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13 European Art Experiences I'll Never Forget

This fall’s trip to Europe was full of inspiration. Last week I took you to the Tempelhof Airport Garden in 13 photos. This week I have 13 more moments to share, this time spread across Munich, Berlin and Paris. 

Looking back on those days filled with art and culture, these are 13 scenes that will stay with me a very long time. 13 moments when I felt lucky to be alive, in that place, at that time. 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s get on with those pictures. 

1. Iceland Air In-Flight Media

The inspiration actually begins in the cabin of our Iceland Air plane to Europe. Iceland Air is working hard to convey Iceland as little island with a big culture. They succeed, and I hope to return there for more than a 45 minute layover sometime soon.

It doesn’t take long to see there is something creative and beautiful about Icelandic people. It is clear right from the in-flight safety video. These are usually forgettable, but this whimsical piece includes animation and a clever juxtaposition of Icelandic adventures with the various safety instructions. 

See for yourself.  

While we wait for takeoff Icelandic music pumps through the speakers, and it is great. They even sell CD’s, one of which you can stream online at

2. Gilching Square Sculpture 

From the serenity of our Iceland Air flight, we are plunged into the confusion of the large and foreign Munich airport. Thankfully, it is midday and we had plenty of time to get to our Air BnB accommodations. 

Our basement suite is tucked into a lovely little suburb on the outskirts of Munich, called Gilching. We get off the S-Bahn (train) and walk a kilometer or so. Nearing the house, unsure of ourselves, our host calls to my wife from across the street. ‘Are you Christie?’ We sigh with relief. What a miracle, to be found by a stranger across the world. Such a warm welcome!

Settled in, we head for a walk and dinner in a quiet public square. This kind of square stands out in Canada, but can be found all over Europe. In its centre stands the first of many impressive pieces of public art we’ll see over the next two weeks. A massive globe, made of wood-grained panels with bright coloured squares strewn throughout. The globe is split down the middle. 

Closer inspection reveals the two halves connected by a series of life-size bronze arms, linking hands. It is a beautiful piece thanks speaks to connection and unity. That same connection we felt when our host yelled hello across the German street. The same connection we will feel many times on our trip.

Fun sculpture in munich

3. Classical Violinist Busker

Walking through downtown Munich days later, we are in a crowded shopping district filled with pedestrian-only cobblestone streets. We pass under an archway, and there in the shadows is a familiar sight. A busker. What is unfamiliar is the busker’s music. He plays a violin and plays it well. Exquisite classical music fills the stone archway. In Edmonton this would be a Neil Young cover on a detuned pawnshop guitar.

On the bottom right you can see the archway. He was somewhere in there.

Definitely not the violinist, but another fine specimen of Munich Street Performer I will refer to as the Munich Munchkin.

Definitely not the violinist, but another fine specimen of Munich Street Performer I will refer to as the Munich Munchkin.

4. Paper Crane Church Installation

Just down the road, we enter an open church. I try and stop into any churches that look open, if only for a moment, to take in the breathtaking architecture. These old buildings are so ornate – so full of care and attention to detail – that they would be major tourist attractions in young Canada. Here in old Europe, they are commonplace. But not this church. This church houses an art installation.

Looking up, we see hundreds of origami cranes hung by wire from the ceiling, flying in formation toward the altar. The light from the an open window sets the white paper aglow. Dozens of us are looking but no one speaks. Thinking back now, I’m reminded of Dayton Casteleman’s windmills, but as striking as his piece is, he had no space so beautiful to set it within. Ancient and modern form a chord of resonant awe here. I try and capture it.

5. Bavarian Cuckoo Clocks

Ducking into a tourist shop, we discover a room full of cuckoo clocks. Clocks like I’ve never seen, made from intricately carved wooden pieces and costing thousands of dollars. They are set differently so that one goes off every few moments. We watch wooden couples dance round and round. We hear the classic cuckoo chime. Not sure this is my taste, but you can’t help but marvel at such care and craftsmanship.

6. Berlin Street Art

Care and craftsmanship are not words I would use when describing Berlin. Except for the food. Berlin is brazen with youth and defiance. She is punk rock to Munich’s classical. And she is sexy.

Everywhere you go in Berlin–aside from the sterilized tourist core–surfaces are covered in graffiti. Some of it is incredible. Some of it is just graffiti. But even that, taken together en masse, is an inspiring kaleidoscope of shape and colour.

If creativity was a genie, his bottle shattered in Berlin, and you’re not getting him back in there.

A large section of the Berlin Wall remains as the Eastside Gallery.

A large section of the Berlin Wall remains as the Eastside Gallery.

'Berlin is Poor, But Sexy'. This is not actually their city slogan, but it could be.

This place is just so broke-down-beautiful.

Sections of the Berlin Wall, preserved as canvases. 'Every Wall is a Challenge'.

Just a wall like so many others.

So .... this is a Berlin playground. 

7. Tempelhof Garden

I won’t speak much of the garden at Berlin’s abandoned Tempelhof Airport, because I wrote an entire piece on it last week. But I will tell you one story. 

I am filming a short video clip to try an capture this place, and just before I hit STOP I am interrupted by a roving poet. He looks wild. A little mad perhaps. Homeless, maybe. He offers me beauty for a mere 0.50 Euro. How can I say no?

I pay him and he recites a poem, first in German and then, sensing I do not understand, translated to English. I’ll never know if something has been lost in translation, but the poem doesn’t make a lot of sense. He then writes it down and gives me this paper. 

It feels like a sacred moment with some fairy in the forest. Before I leave he makes sure I hear his final advice. 

‘Always loud! The instrument will function well.’

I take so many pictures here that my camera battery finally dies, and so I will hand photographic duties over to my wife’s camera from here on out.

8. Urban Spree Gallery

We spend most of our Berlin days in Friedrichshain, a neighbourhood like Whyte Ave on a good drug trip. Not that I’d know. 

Specifically, I’m drawn to a derelict train yard, housing at least one nightclub, a skatepark, a climbing wall, a restaurant or two and a vintage furniture store. 

It’s in that furniture store, housed in old work-camp trailers, I learn we are just a block from the Urban Spree Gallery. This free art gallery is an altar to Street Art, complete with great outdoor couches to relax in the gritty sunshine with a biere.

We’ve made it for Dubl Trubl, a collaborative Street Art show. This is the street art version of a rap battle – the pieces attributed as ‘artist X vs. artist Y’. It’s totally awesome.

You just have to check out their website and their photos of this show at

They actually seem to repaint the building to match the show.

Here is that furniture store. Those containers can grow and shrink to meet the need. This parking lot is a park. Sort of.

Climb this!

9. Quay Along the Seine

DJ Dave

After checking into our apartment in Paris (and with no small amount of trouble but that’s another story), we decide to take a nap, then head for an exploratory walk. 

Our wandering will eventually lead us to the Eiffel Tower, but we get there via the Seine River. 

Along the Seine Quay there are food stalls, giant board games, hopscotch, a play structure for kids, sculptures and so much more. A woman guides kids through a string art workshop. The pieces look so cool but we’re too old to take part. 

Walking along the Seine we stumble upon a disco under a bridge. A mirrorball spins between mirrored walls and a wooden DJ booth structure. We get to be the DJs! I read a sign and discover that I can control the music from my mobile device via Bluetooth. I pull out my iPod Touch and cue up the perfect song. Afterlife, by Arade Fire, from their latest album, Reflektor. It’s a song we’ve heard played in stores here, so I know people know it. Arcade Fire is from Montreal, about as close to Paris as some good Can-Con can get. And it’s got a beat you can dance to.

In a moment of spontaneous romance I cue up Glen Hansard and invite my wife to dance with me. A few steps in the music cuts out. Our time is up. 

Thankfully, there is still plenty to inspire along the recently revitalized Quay.


This is how they do street art in Paris.

10. Madeline Church Concert

In a moment of intention-keeping I am very proud of, we make it to the gorgeous Madeline Church in time for a free choral concert. Or, in time enough.

The music is beautiful, more modern than I expect and performed by what looks like a choir of teens and young adults. The melodies reverberate throughout the massive hall like magic. I don’t think there are any microphones.

For the first time, but not the last, I am enthralled by music I cannot understand, forced to dig beneath the lyrics for deeper treasures. 

I have no photo of the Madeline, but Notre Dame should do in a pinch.

11. Espace Dali

A few days into Paris we visit Monmarte–the oldest part and the highest point atop a hill. Here is where the great artists lived. Here is where they philosophized at the Cafè de Flore. Here is where you find Espace Dali.

This gallery, dedicated to the work of Salvador Dali, is small but full of wonders. It focusses mainly on Dali’s sculptures, but has many paintings, too. I never knew Dali made sculptures, but there are many. Some are bronze versions of his most famous images. Bronze clocks melt. Bronze drawers sit open from the torso of a bronze woman. 

It seems we’ve lucked out again, as the current show places street artists inspired by Dali among his own works. In one cathedral-like space there are religious images from Dali. A bronze version of his floating Crucifixion. A Christ face painted from a splatter caused by Dali’s ‘bulletism’ technique. Among these, a punching bag with Christ’s face on it. It is a striking work created by a contemporary artist that plays nicely off of Dali’s own religious iconography. 

I learn here just how talented, and how wild, Dali was. I also learn the magnetic pull that Christian faith had on him. His fascination and dedication toward the Biblical story. 

I leave with much to think about, and an incredible desire to grow a moustache.

Time is dripping away
Mae West Lip Couch
Take it out on Jesus

12. Centre Pompidou 

Where Espace Dali is small and focussed, the Centre Pompidou is sprawling and comprehensive. Among other things, Centre Pompidou houses France’s National Museum of Modern Art. I race through my three hours here, taking in what I can and trying to pay homage to the greats. Picasso. Miro. Bacon. Duchamp. Frank Gehry. 

There is so much to see in a building that is, itself, so much to see. We ascend clear tubes like hamsters, trying to find the open exhibits without wasting time walking. I get a brief glimpse of the Paris rooftops from the top floor. It is one of the best views anywhere.

Unfortunately, I did not have a camera along. I relied only on my wits and my wristwatch. But you can find out all about the Centre Pompidou on their website.

And maybe I can make it up to you with a view from another high spot in Paris - the Eiffel Tower?

No Pompidou pics, so how about this one from another famous platform - Eiffel Tower?

13. Au Lapine Agile

Nearing our final evening in Paris, we’ve made reservations at the mysterious and fabled Au Lapine Agile. The nimble rabbit is shown on a painted sign, jumping from a cooking pan. Inside, nightly, a Parisian Cabaret takes place, and has for decades. Toulouse Lautrec still haunts this dark little room. Picasso Painted. Steve Martin wrote a play about it. 

It was too dark to get a good photo, but a picture could never convey the hobbit-hole warmth, deep lamplit reds or trunk-like wooden tables that fill every precious inch of this tiny space.

We wait outside in the rain until precisely 9 when, as promised, the doors open. We are ushered in by people who speak apparently little English, into a room we know nothing about. Cabaret can mean many things. Here is what it means at Au Lapine Agile.

We sit around the edges of the room, leaving an open table in the centre. A man plays a piano against the rear wall. There is no stage. A small curtain opens and 8 or so men and women, each in their own way looking very French indeed, sit around a table and get jovial in a language I don’t understand. They launch into rousing song. Without fanfare, our four hour evening has begun.

Lapin Agile Piano Man

Song after song enthrals with the mystique of an ancient sea shanty, which I am told some of these are. A server brings us the house drink - some brandy with cherries inside. It is good but small and I cannot for the life of me figure out how to order anything else for the rest of the night. My wife, always prepared, has brought a bottle of water.

In a few spots we are helped to sing along and it is magic. ‘Oui, oui, oui!’ I sing. The voices of strangers join together just like those linked arms back in Munich. The pure beauty of music unites us, beyond language and distance, for a night. 

Some performers leave and each takes their turn in solo or pair to entertain us. In the end, past midnight, four of us remain while a lone singer croons over a strummed guitar. As intimate as it gets, this is simply like no other night I’ve ever had, and the perfect cork on an already beautiful European adventure. 

Jesus at the Cabaret.

Jesus at the Cabaret.

Beauty in Our Backyard

I’m back home now, still on the lookout for beauty, and still finding plenty of it. Just a day or so after returning I was sent this video. You’ve likely seen it already, but its worth another watch. We don’t need to visit the places I’ve mentioned to open our eyes in wonder. Just go for a brisk fall walk with your heart wide open.

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13 Moments From the Tempelhof Airport Garden

I've been back from Europe nearly a week and I'm just now getting settled. I return refreshed, with a full memory, and a fuller memory card. I am seeking ways to unpack it all.

There was champagne at the Eifel Tower. The massive treasure chest of modern art that is the Pompidou Centre. The Salvador Dali Gallery. The old rail yards of Berlin. The midnight bike-ride through a pitch dark drug park. The beer steins and lederhosen of Munich. There was just so much. 

When I feel this sort of overwhelm, I know I need to focus–to zoom in on just one moment. So let me take you to Berlin's abandoned Tempelhof Airport.

I am wandering, jaw dropped and wide-eyed, through the most wild and beautiful garden I've ever seen. The Tempelhof Airport is an abandoned city-centre airport, like our own. It was slated for redevelopment, like our own. Unlike Edmonton's Municipal Airport, Tempelhof is a war hero. It was here that the US would drop off supplies and aid. This patch of grass and concrete and asphalt has worked its way into Berlin's heart. They love it here.

Tempelhof is now many things to many people. It is a sprawling runway for bicycles and skateboards, rollerblades and scooters. It is a place for children to race on foot, with start and finish lines painted out. It is hopscotch and chalk drawing. It is a place to picnic by the little old airplane. A spot to play baseball. A place to watch and learn about birds. A dance school. A bike-repair training centre. A refreshing hand-in-hand walk. A community garden.

In middle of this public park, now reclaimed by Berlin's citizens (I am told they will never develop it now), there is a community garden.

And I am wandering through this garden, taking photos. The first visit I just gawked and wondered aloud how this could happen. There are, seemingly, no rules at the Tempelhof garden. Respect your neighbours, of course, but build what you wish with whatever you wish. A pile of trash waits just at the edge to be transformed into the waking dreams of gardeners. I am back today to capture this–to feed my lens a kaleidoscope of imagination. To try and bring some of Tempelhof back, for you.

I need to try, because this remains my favourite memory of Europe. There is something about such ragged beauty–it's absolute freedom granted to the human spirit–that is a pure joy. This place, so far from perfect, is just perfict. 

Here. Let me show you as best I can in thirteen images.

Be sure to click each image for a description, my thoughts, and a larger version.

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Kaleido Moments and 34 Photos for #ArtsTalkTuesday

This past weekend thousands of guests crowded the cordoned off streets of Alberta Avenue for the Kaleido Family Arts Festival. Perhaps you were one of them?

The Bleeding Heart Art Space provided volunteer care in the 'Volunteer Luxe Lounge' all weekend. This meant we decorated the room, brought in some crazy lamps, kept things clean and tidy and served up food the festival brought in. It also meant a lot of smiles and great conversations with some very dedicated volunteers.

At some point, I left the Volunteer Lounge and wandered the streets. I took some photos. I had some moments.

What moment stands out for you from this past weekend's festival? If you weren't able to make it, do you have any questions about what was there?

Enjoy the photos and stories below! 

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The Crash: The Glen Day Six

You can only drink from a fire hose for so long before you start to drown.

It is Friday and I wake up tired, hoarse and homesick.

Until this morning I have felt invincible. I have strode victorious through each full day and each late night. I've known, somewhere in the sane recesses of my mind, that I would have to pay one day. I think that day might be today.

I sleep in. I dawdle late to breakfast. I race past the omelette station line towards the faster yogurt and granola. 

Today I am missing my wife. I am missing my kids. I am reminded of them everywhere. How they would love to see the koi pond. How they would like to meet these new friends.

But right now they are home and I am here. And my time is rapidly dwindling.

Our morning songwriting session is full of beautiful songs and insightful critique from Linford and Karin of Over the Rhine. In a standout moment – the type of moment that gives you chills for it's singular specialness – Jack Korbel sings us a song accapella. He breaks our hearts. Linford moves to the piano and asks Jack to sing it again while he plays some of the most mournful chords I've ever heard. Our hearts melt.

The song is about a mother leaving her husband and kids for a time. The husband puts on a brave face for his kids, but the low grey sky reveals the true condition of his aching heart.

My heart is aching, too.

Lunch comes and goes. I fall asleep and miss the afternoon session.

My weary body wins. I crash.

In the evening I finally catch a Santa Fe sunset. It is so magical that I miss the beginning of our worship time with Richard Rohr. This painted sky is a reminder, while I am here, to enjoy the gifts I cannot get at home. These people. These sunsets. I stay outside on the patio making repeated attempts to capture the magnificence of this sky. I fail.

I go to bed early tonight. At least early for The Glen Workshop.

I have just one more day here, and I want to live it well.

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