Jason Rens MFA Applied Craft + Design Practicum 2019
My reason for coming to graduate school was twofold. First, I wanted to gain the accreditation, knowledge and experience necessary to teach at the collegiate level. Secondly, I hoped to re-imagine and align my artistic endeavors as a fairly fresh apprentice of Jesus Christ. Initially I believed the former to significantly outweigh the latter. A freshly reconfigured studio practice would merely be icing on the MFA graduate cake. Through a frustrating, painful, confusing and terribly inconvenient creative block (“paralysis of analysis”) I came to realize my seemingly dual purposes for coming to graduate school were actually singular. They were a vitally linked call and response, question and answer, provocation and epiphany. And the key would be learning how to hear and trust God more deeply.
For the first three semesters of graduate school I tried exploring various mediums and endeavors. Annoyingly what I was saying about the work and the work itself never seemed to fit together. I found myself trying to explain the work in different ways. And I tried making different kinds of work to match the different ways I was explaining the work. But it remained elusive and I grew more and more ashamed of my inability to perform. I felt desperately uninspired, regretful of attending graduate school, painfully vulnerable and haunted by voices espousing deep self-rejection. As Brene Brown says, “Incongruent living is exhausting.”
The inconvenient and paralyzing creative block was symptomatic of my life-long struggle with self-love and self-acceptance. The practice of Christian spiritual disciplines and my desire to love others transformed into the pathway forward. What follows is my journey told in seven movements.