Welcome to the first post of the new year under our first theme: “Beginning”. A fitting theme for both the new year and the start of our curator and theme programs.

I felt called to respond to this theme because I have been experiencing a period of beginnings in my life. Most tangibly, my husband Jonathon and I moved to a new apartment in the Bronx. We packed our things, said goodbye to the East Village: to restaurants on every corner, to a shower in our kitchen, and to the three tiny rooms that comprised the first home we shared together. We said hello to an unknown neighborhood in the Bronx, space, empty streets, room to breathe, and new possibilities.

With the energy of a fresh start, I made my “New Years Resolutions” in February, a little later than usual. As my body began to unwind from that compact 300 square feet to a spacious 1,000, my mind began to clear, and I began to fill the time and space now given to me by searching for the next step in my professional and creative life.

For me, this has involved a lot of theological exploration, discussion, and journalling in my new found subway time. I have also begun to develop new areas of my life, areas that I have always wanted to explore, but that have been put on the back burner due to restraints in time, space, and finances.

Physically, I began training for a marathon. I have enjoyed running for several years now, but I am amazed at how the structure of a training program is allowing me to thrive. Combined with my proximity to Central Park, I am ready to be amazed by what the human body can do, and how we can challenge ourselves to use it more fully.

Artistically, I am hoping to expand my interests into visual art (mostly drawing and painting) and dance. I know that growing in these areas will feed my artistic spirit and deepen the work I do in both music and theater.

Last weekend I was told that there are two deep sources of pain that we as humans habitually cultivate; impatience with other people and everyday worry. Realizing that these two instinctual reactions are a choice that I make has been a powerful factor in this new chapter of my life. Highlighted in this realization is the fact that when I try to control my life, these two monsters are constantly looking over my shoulder. When, in some rare moments, I am able to trust and let go, those monsters lose their hold on me as well.

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Rivers in the Desert is in response to Isaiah 43:18-19, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and river in the desert.”

The above pieces are an exploration of my visual sense of newness, creation and beginning. Compiled are photographic elements from a few series of photographs: a perfect witch hazel plant in full bloom, our new apartment stacked full of boxes, and New Years Resolutions scrawled on sticky notes. This series of four photographs explores the struggle between God and myself to create new beginnings. I cloud His purpose with my will, my busyness, and my frantic pace, trying to create my future and force it into submission. Meanwhile, God presents me with this “new thing”, which I am only able to see if I let go of my cluttered mind. I found it fitting to explore these themes in a very unfamiliar medium, forcing me to relinquish my control and my ego, and to begin expanding my vision.

-Emily Clare Zempel

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