Coram Deo in the Studio

The notion of coram deo is a theological and para-theological idea that has been held forth at various times. I’ve even got a pastor friend who has a church named Coram Deo. Essentially, the Latin phrase means “in the presence of God” or “before the face of God.”

Well, I guess some would argue that we’re all always in the presence of the divine, but even the bible says that no one has ever seen God (Exodus 33:20). Elsewhere, however, we note a caveat:

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” – 1 John 4:12

If we love, we see God. Divine love is manifest in that seeing.


I decided to do a little survey of my studio. Who is here? In loving, where do I see God?

cosplay matt and jesse
…in a Polaroid of me and Jesse all dressed up.
…in a sketch of Norby talking about his art.
…in a bobble-head of Bob Ross.
…in a poster of Anne Harris from one of her The Mind’s I exhibitions.
…in a portrait of me created by my daughter Miranda after my heart attack.
…in a card given to me by my friend Ryan many years ago.
…in a photo of my friend Peter when he was a child.
…in the MFA thesis card for my friend Eric.
…in the face of my cousin Chris, my first friend in adventuring, building, and dreaming.
…in the laid back gaze of ‘Lex in his studio at Northwestern.
…in the portrait of me with Darth Vader made by my former grad student Jane Jun.
…in the raised eyebrow of Alison, way back in that studio apartment in Evanston.

I have a lot more faces and visages and signifiers of people in my studio. These suffice.

Look around… see who you love and who loves you. In acknowledging them – in believing that they are real – you make divine love real. When we don’t believe that others are real – that their desires, experiences, or feelings are somehow not like ours – we dehumanize them. We de-divine their reality. They are miracles. We are privileged to be in the presence of other motes of matter that catch the divine light.

Let’s all recognize that.


Statement for the upcoming MANIFEST exhibition, “PAINT”

“…in a work of art every element, whether it pertain to perceptual form or to subject matter, […] represents something beyond its particular self.” – Arnheim

The brick is evocative for me because, in my contemplation of its form and metaphoric associations, it transforms. Its prosaic presence becomes a poetic musing on the human state.

A single brick bears a proportional relationship to the structure built from many similar units; one brick contains within itself an image of the whole building. This reflexivity between part and whole has energized the brick with symbolic meaning for millennia in many different cultures. Its presence as a signifier of component importance allows me to use it to refer to the accumulation of human knowledge: what we think we know and our attitudes about that awareness. The conceit that we can contain, format, and cross-reference everything knowable or worth knowing is widespread. Yet true understanding is often not as quantifiable or containable as we might hope. Bricks, as symbols, remind me of the good things we do, the wonderful intentions and desires we aspire to, as well as the negative connotations of the assumptions within which we often operate.

-Ballou, February 2010