All posts by Lisa

About Lisa

Besides sleeping, I spent most of my time making things. For the most part, oil paint is my preferred medium to work and think with.

“STJ 86: Taste and Bee” – Process & Theology

This art piece – STJ 86: Taste and Bee – thinks through Anglican, Sarah Coakley’s, articulation of desire in a Mennonite context. Here are a few slightly edited excerpts of an essay I wrote for professor Jeremy Bergen this year at Grebel Uni.:

STJ 86 Taste and Bee

“STJ 86: Taste and Bee” by Lisa Obirek, December 2015

5 reduction linocut on stonehenge paper with added media: water soluble oil, paint pens, raw bees wax, nail polish, gold leaf

This piece is called a “print” and fits within the broader artistic medium of “printmaking.” The more specific term for this particular print is called a five-reduction linocut. This means I use a traditional piece of rubbery linoleum which is essentially just heated up linseed oil and I carve designs into the same block of linoleum in five different stages.  I use carving tools that are similar to traditional wood carving tools on a smaller scale. These carving tools have different ends, or “bits,” that make their own distinct cuts into the linoleum. Continue reading “STJ 86: Taste and Bee” – Process & Theology

philosophy with art via Grosz

It has been a while since I have been grabbed by a book but I think I may have found a new friend in Elizabeth Grosz. Here is a quote from the introduction to her 2008 book Chaos, Territory, Art; Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth.

“What can philosophy contribute to an understanding of art other than an aesthetics, that is, a theory of art, a reflection on art? Instead of supervening from above, taking art as its object, how can philosophy work with art or perhaps as and alongside art, a point of relay or connection with art? Only by seeking what it shares with ar, what common origin they share in the forces of the earth and of the living body, what ways they divide and organize chaos to create a plane of coherence, a field of consistency, a plane of composition on which to think and to create. In other words, what common debt do art and philosophy share to those forces, chaos, that each in their own ways much slow down, decompose, harness, and develop (through the construction of the plane of immanence in philosophy and the constitution of the plane of composition in the arts)? How, in other words, do the arts and philosophy(“theory”) create? With what resources? Techniques? Counterforces? And what is it that they create when they create “works,” philosophical works and artistic works?”

Becoming a Mennonite and then a workshop at the Mennonite World Conference

This evening I returned home from a week gathering in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for the Mennonite World Conference. Unlike many attendees of the conference, Anabaptism (the “mother” of “Mennonites) was not something that I inherited from my parents and then stepped into as I became an adult. Rather, it feels like I have been slowly immersed into the Mennonite faith. A number of different experiences, communities and individuals have brought me further into the world of Mennonites: studying Christian theology at a Mennonite institution has indelibly left its mark on me, researching the NGO work of Mennonite organizations (like Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Mennonite Economic Development Agency (MEDA)) from those within the organizations and those the organisations partner with, worshiping with a Mennonite congregation, and seeing women and men in their eighties and nineties actively pursuing activist-peace movements. It was this latter point that kind of “sealed the deal” for me in terms of making a commitment to a Mennonite way of life. Continue reading Becoming a Mennonite and then a workshop at the Mennonite World Conference

“Prophetic Grief” a sermon on Rom. 8 after Charleston massacre.

I have heard more poor sermons than hopeful ones. Often I hear some kind of mix of nihilism, sentimentality and gnosticism streaming from the pulpit rather than attentive, faithful, theology and so more-often-than-not whenever I am listening to a sermon I am also practicing the skill of 1) picking my battles and 2) tuning out. Over the last few years, after I leave a church service I am often exhausted and/or angry and I often feel that Jesus is very far away. Often, it has me wondering why in the world I studied theology and why I am continuing on down the path of further studying Christian theology. However, this sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr. and his son Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III this past Sunday in the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago has left me thinking “I wanna do that, I wanna be that.” I stumbled across it in a tweet from Sojourner magazine and it has me in a very good place – a place that has me wanting more of the church and a place that has me wanting to give more to the church.

Watch the video!

Here are a few wonderful things about this video clip sermon:

1. The preachers are standing among people, surrounded by their congregation and not high above on a stage, removed and untouchable to their parishioners

2. The scripture text is localized in the preachers’ places, their histories and the present cries of the folks in their church.

3. They use gender neutral language for God.

4. They ramp up the tone of the sermon so by the end you might feel yourself crying or sweating or something in the middle. All this is to say is they deliver their sermon with tremendous conviction.

5. They name specific people and events that their hearers can identify with which gives shape to the scripture text they are drawing from – they are preaching the particularity of this sacred text. (similar to #2)

6 They continuously return to goal of worshiping God and not idols.

7. They use repetition to create a pulse and rhythm to the message that listeners find themselves moved into.

8. They seem sad and frustrated and overflowing with a joyful hope and those feelings are a safe place to identify with many who worship in church.

Prayer for Charleston


Yesterday I heard the news of the shooting.


Cynthia Hurd,

Suzie Jackson,

Ethel Lance,

Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor,

Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney,

Tywanza Sanders,

Reverend Daniel Simmons Senior,

Reverend Sharonda Singletone,

Myra Thompson,

are dead.

Taken from their families, friends, communities, and from their places in your work around our Table. We grieve these losses as tremendous wounds in the body of Christ.

They came together to worship you, to bring you their spirits and their lives, to seek wisdom and guidance in the ways to come; They came together in your place of peace, in your sanctuary of hope to envision justice and healing; They came together to lift one another up, to “spur one another on” as your Word guides us to.

And in this place of peace, of wisdom, of carrying one another’s burdens, your believers – followers of Galatians 6:2 – were slaughtered worse than pigs as they obeyed your Word. Shot in the church while the shooter reloaded five times. As they were praying and studying your word they were shot and killed.

Your church is shaking now, with hearts that are broken and tears that can’t stop crying for your body has suffered a beating and we have been burned and battered. So we need you now Lorde, to cover us in the mercy that only you can touch us with. Give us the know-how and the resources to be grateful for the gifts that Cynthia, Suzie, Ethel, Rev. Depayne, Rev. Clemta, Tywanza, Rev. Daniel, Rev. Sharonda, and Myra gave to us.

Show us how to love our sisters and brothers in Charleston right now. Be with the children of those who died. Be with the partners of those who were shot. Be with the siblings of those who were killed. Be with the mothers and the fathers of those who were murdered in your AME Charleston house yesterday night. May you give them visions of your peace and a soul-belief in your justice.

We are tired, Lorde, of these cries being unanswered. We are tired of taking yet another punch in the gut of your Body and we mourn in this pain for your promises that have yet to be. We want them now and exasperation and rage have taken a front seat. So guide us now in your all-seeing ways.

Give good sleep and good food and wise words to the churches of Charleston today.

May your ways be known to all. Show us your paths and open the ears and hearts to hear your rage at this pain that Charleston and the global church is reeling in right now.

So that we may walk in the promised land,


Self-Portrait II: Resources

This notion of a self-portrait shaped by theological, philosophical and intersectional feminism has been a curiosity of mine for about a year now and I figured it was time start (trying) to name the particular interests and questions. One of the ways I can focus this investigation is by looking at how the “self” is thought through by specific thinkers, artists, books, ideas, and experiences. In other words, how does X conceptualize the “self?” Here are the (academically acclaimed?) artists, books, thinkers and ideas that are helping me to think about the “self” in a more systematic fashion:

  1. Artists:

Joan Semmel: Works with oil paints on canvas and has painted many nudes of herself. She had worked with feminist art-groups around the world and I am especially interested in her “Me Without Mirrors” series in which she paints what she can see of her own nude body.

Jenny Saville: Works with oil paints and paints female bodies, transvestite bodies and explores flesh and concepts of gender.

Aleah Chapin: Works with oil paints and paints mostly nude female bodies. I don’t know if she has done an exploration into self-portraits but her subject material (i.e. grey haired women or pregnant women) may not be insignificant in the conceptualizing her “self.” Continue reading Self-Portrait II: Resources

Self-portrait I

Michiel Sweert’s self-portrait 1656-1660
van Gogh’s self portrait 1889

Images along these lines are usually among the first pictures to pop into my head when thinking, somewhat abstractly, about self-portraits. However, these images come undone when thinking about how I would make a self-portrait. Sometimes I sketch what I see in a mirror – my face, breasts, feet, hands – but I wouldn’t call these self-portraits (which is not to say that they totally aren’t self-portraits) because through my readings in theology, philosophy and intersectional feminism, the “self” has become (1) disassembled, (2) re-oriented, and (3) re-emphasized. I can no longer conceive of myself as “my”self.

From within these three epistemological traditions, I will describe how the self has been disassembled, re-oriented and re-emphasized for myself. This on-going investigation will shape my own self-portraits.

My next post will list the thinkers and resources that will guide this investigation.


Yesterday morning I saw a twitter exchange between Dr. Brittney Cooper and somebody-else that incorporated the hashtag #AskAWhiteFeminist. Cooper told somebody-else to #AskAWhiteFeminist about the problems with a white feminist’s speech at the Oscar awards ceremony Sunday night. And then somebody-else went on a name-calling rampage – bigot, hater… – towards Cooper.

Now, I’ve been following Cooper’s work over at The Crunk Feminist Collective for almost three years. Continue reading #AskAWhiteFeminist

Woolf on “genius”

The rhetoric of Genius is a tricky thing. What constitutes genius? Some kind of transcendence where authorial context  need not be considered? What kind of spaces are required for someone create a work of genius? On this blog, I’ve read about the genius according to Proust and Madmen. All this is to say, the language of genius doesn’t sit neutral with me and it appears to carry some weight with both Joel and Gerald.

On the silliness and sadness of genius Virginia Woolf writes this piece describing what it might have looked like if a woman in Shakespeare’s day had had Shakespeare’s genius:

Let me imagine, since facts are so hard to come by, what would have happened had Shakespeare had a wonderfully gifted sister, called Judith, let us say. Shakespeare himself went, very probably — his mother was an heiress — to the grammar school, where he may have learnt Latin — Ovid, Virgil and Horace — and the elements of grammar and logic. He was, it is well known, a wild boy who poached rabbits, perhaps shot a deer, and had, rather sooner than he should have done, to marry a woman in the neighbourhood, who bore him a child rather quicker than was right. That escapade sent him to seek his fortune in London. He had, it seemed, a taste for the theatre; he began by holding horses at the stage door. Very soon he got work in the theatre, became a successful actor, and lived at the hub of the universe, meeting everybody, knowing everybody, practising his art on the boards, exercising his wits in the streets, and even getting access to the palace of the queen. Meanwhile his extraordinarily gifted sister, let us suppose, remained at home. She was as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see the world as he was. But she was not sent to school. She had no chance of learning grammar and logic, let alone of reading Horace and Virgil. She picked up a book now and then, one of her brother’s perhaps, and read a few pages. But then her parents came in and told her to mend the stockings or mind the stew and not moon about with books and papers. They would have spoken sharply but kindly, for they were substantial people who knew the conditions of life for a woman and loved their daughter — indeed, more likely than not she was the apple of her father’s eye. Perhaps she scribbled some pages up in an apple loft on the sly but was careful to hide them or set fire to them. Soon, however, before she was out of her teens, she was to be betrothed to the son of a neighbouring woolstapler. She cried out that marriage was hateful to her, and for that she was severely beaten by her father. Then he ceased to scold her. He begged her instead not to hurt him, not to shame him in this matter of her marriage. He would give her a chain of beads or a fine petticoat, he said; and there were tears in his eyes. How could she disobey him? How could she break his heart? The force of her own gift alone drove her to it. She made up a small parcel of her belongings, let herself down by a rope one summer’s night and took the road to London. She was not seventeen. The birds that sang in the hedge were not more musical than she was. She had the quickest fancy, a gift like her brother’s, for the tune of words. Like him, she had a taste for the theatre. She stood at the stage door; she wanted to act, she said. Men laughed in her face. The manager — a fat, loose-lipped man — guffawed. He bellowed something about poodles dancing and women acting — no woman, he said, could possibly be an actress. He hinted — you can imagine what. She could get no training in her craft. Could she even seek her dinner in a tavern or roam the streets at midnight? Yet her genius was for fiction and lusted to feed abundantly upon the lives of men and women and the study of their ways. At last — for she was very young, oddly like Shakespeare the poet in her face, with the same grey eyes and rounded brows — at last Nick Greene the actor-manager took pity on her; she found herself with child by that gentleman and so — who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet’s heart when caught and tangled in a woman’s body? — killed herself one winter’s night and lies buried at some cross-roads where the omnibuses now stop outside the Elephant and Castle.

That, more or less, is how the story would run, I think, if a woman in Shakespeare’s day had had Shakespeare’s genius.

From Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Chapter 3.