The Art of Thomas Merton
By Roger Lipsey
(New Seeds, Hardcover, 9781590303139, 128pp.)
Publication Date: April 18, 2006
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In the last decade of his life, while living as a hermit-monk in dialogue with the world, Thomas Merton created a body of visual art that has remained largely unknown and little studied in the nearly forty years since his death. With this book, Merton's art at last moves out of the shadows to be appreciated for what it is: a revealing expression of his state of mind and heart in the 1960s, and a visual correlative to his mature works of spiritual writing such as New Seeds of Contemplation and Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. Roger Lipsey provides a fascinating analysis of the simple and striking images and their significance in Merton's journey. He find in them resonances with Asian calligraphy and American abstract expressionism, and relates them to the influence of Merton's wide circle of friends, which included such diverse figures as the Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, the poet Czeslaw Milosz, the Zen scholar D. T. Suzuki, and the artist Ad Reinhardt—among many others.
But the centerpiece of the book is the art itself, presented in a portfolio of thirty-four representative pieces that reflect the changing themes and methods of Merton's work. Each is accompanied by selections from his writings from the 1960s that reflect the inward and outward territories Merton was exploring in the period when these remarkable images were created.
Roger Lipsey is a biographer, art historian, editor, and translator. He is the author of An Art of Our Own: The Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art; Angelic Mistakes: The Art of Thomas Merton; and most recently Hammarskjöld: A Life, hailed as the definitive Dag Hammarskjöld biography.
Winner of the 2007 Thomas Merton Award from the International Thomas Merton Society
"Lipsey is a fine messenger for Merton. There are few books that so readably and thoroughly admire the practice of any artist as beautifully as Lipsey's does. Lipsey is a master of interpretation, guiding more than leading headstrong, nudging the reader to join with him and with Merton in the act of creating, and then in understanding the consequence of that creation. Lipsey's quietly argued book creates a strong context for continued appreciation of this giant light from the last century—a light that shines, we see, through still more lenses than we previously knew."—Parabola
"Roger Lipsey has custom-built the very place, perhaps, that Merton dreamed of finding for his work; an authentic refuge for luminous things and curious treasures."—Suzi Gablik, author of The Reenchantment of Art
"Kudos to Roger Lipsey for opening up Thomas Merton's visual art, which has been largely ignored until now by his reading public as well as by most Merton scholars and interpreters of his work. Our gratitude for Angelic Mistakes is boundless, both to the author and publisher. This richly illustrated volume is the best introduction to the mature visual world of Thomas Merton, which deserves a wide audience."—Brother Patrick Hart, Thomas Merton's secretary, editor of The Intimate Merton <p align="left">"It's not easy to write about the deeply wordless world from which these haunting images emerged, but at last the challenge to think out loud about this neglected side of Merton has been taken up by Roger Lipsey. Breaking new ground, Lipsey thoughtfully explores aspects of Merton-as-artist."—Jim Forest, author of Living with Wisdom: A Life of Thomas Merton
"This astonishing book looks at an aspect of Merton's life that has been almost ignored—his art—and shows, with copious quotations and profound insight, that it was a visual expression of his prayer. Here we have access to that wordless, imageless experience that was nearer to him than life itself. It is a book to be read slowly, quietly, and repeatedly: a wonderful book."—Sister Wendy Beckett, host of the PBS series Sister Wendy's American Collection
"A remarkable piece of work and a remarkable piece of publishing."—Phyllis Tickle, author of Prayer Is a Place: America's Religious Landscape Observed