Saturday, January 9, 2010

A philosopher's life/A dangerous path

Posted By on Sat, Jan 9, 2010 at 9:52 PM

More from Luke Sheffer, local monk and featured artist of the show Monks and Punks, running now through Jan. 29 at Rubbish Gallery.

I teach every semester [at Bemis School of Art] ... and I do some drawing and painting, but it's mostly a philosopher's life; I don't have a lot of care or responsibility, which is nice. I have just a lot of time ... by myself, in my cave down here [in the basement of the Dale House].

On traveling from St. Petersburg (where he attended the Russian Academy of Arts) to a monastery in an attempt to join the Eastern Orthodox Church:

In St. Petersburg, you’re going from pretty urban — for Russia — to ... this train station where Nicholas II abdicated the throne. There’s this heart-breaking little, marble plaque on the side of the station which basically, from that moment, commenced 70 years of the gulag; 70 years, 40 million dead, all the best people, all the priests, all the monks. So I got off there, got on this rickety little bus then had to walk till I got to this monastery.

And then when I was reading more about the history of Russia, everything just fell together for me. I had kind of seen all of it. I had seen the goodness of these monks and the Orthodox and seen these humble people in this village … I mean these people were incredible, these old grandmas that lived on tea and bread.

Too, what the Soviet era had done, the destruction. Sometimes I’d look at the riff raff on the street and I would think, "It’s because that’s what happens when you kill 40 million people the years before — you end up with the drunk, the lame, the toothless."

I did a painting of Benazir Bhutto, because, one, I just thought she was a beautiful woman, so it was no skin off my back, but that’s someone you need to paint. So I painted her.
  • "I did a painting of Benazir Bhutto, because, one, I just thought she was a beautiful woman, so it was no skin off my back, but that’s someone you need to paint. So I painted her."

On his artistic process:

It’s more like you’re a beggar before your muse and you just show up that day. And that’s everyone, anyone that applies a trade ... Even when it’s bad, it’s OK because you know it’s not about you necessarily, you just know that maybe today I should go back to bed.

I can’t really force myself to [draw] — I’m pretty lazy. Whatever comes out, I’m just grateful to my angel or my muse that I got up today and had that kind of fire to do this or that. But some days you just gotta go back to bed. If I try and do anything it’s going to be crappy work.

On duality:

I confess — I like Madonna. I like her style and the way she conveys her sexuality and her versatility. Someone like that is inspiring ... To a certain extent, I have to say that the ideal is to fill your mind and your heart and your eyes at all times — as much as possible — with things that are good, pure, holy. That's the ideal.

But yeah, it’s temptation, but I think its everywhere in every aspect of your life. I don’t know — it’s probably a dangerous path. I’m in maybe a dangerous place. But I also have to trust in the prayers of the church, the grace of my tonsure, the power of confession to be able to confess these things.

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