Body Psalms Tales
The higher ed course I present based on the Body Psalms Project culminates in a creative performance of body stories from the lives of the students, imagined, designed and performed by them. During the rehearsal stage in one such course a shy young woman had written a moving poem about a lesbian auto-erotic fantasy but was too afraid to use it, fearing to come out, particularly at this conservative Catholic college and most particularly since her parents would be attending. It was a powerful, heartfelt poem so I encouraged her to use the material anonymously, perhaps even having someone else read it so no one would know where it came from. We talked over several different options and finally she determined that she would be willing to record the poem and have the narration play over the PA while she sat onstage, completely covered in veils, looking out at the audience. This is how we rehearsed it.
But that's not how the performance unfolded. This courageous woman surprised us all. The segment began as we had all expected, but then all of our jaws dropped as she bagan removing the veils one by one. On the last stanza of the poem she even removed the veil from around her face. Claiming her dignity for all to see who she really is, she then strutted offstage with the most arresting calm self-assurance. We had all been given the rare gift of witnessing a most astonishing once-in-a-lifetime transformation!
Tim's TED talk on the Erotic Crisisdescribes the Body Psalms project to an audience of folks who really care about the future.
We put on a Body Psalms worship service recently in a local church. One of the elements we included in the liturgy was a ritual for the congregation. Everyone present who wished to do so was invited to come forward to be blessed with a word written in marker by the minister on their wrist: "Blessed". One woman who came forward suffers from a severe bipolar condition and presents some challenges for the minister. The minister later told me that she was apparently very moved by the ritual. He thought it could've proved a life-changing experience for her.
One day during the run of the Body Psalms Project exhibition at the Paris Gibson Museum of Art a woman came in to speak with the director, Bob Durden, who later told me this story.
She had come with her kids, including her young son who has Cerebral Palsy. He's six, and as one would expect, he struggles for acceptance among his peers. When the mother brought her children into the Body Psalms exhibition from another gallery her son was fidgety but upon seeing the films playing on a big screen he became immediately fixated on the moving figures. She realized after remaining some time in the gallery that her son was emulating the motion of the dancers as they moved in the film and seemed to be enjoying himself so much he lost himself in the movement, becoming totally unaware of the other viewers in the gallery.
We all appreciate art in different ways. I can hardly think of a more touching complement to receive about my work than that given to my work by a 6-year-old boy!