Helena artist Tim Holmes calls his upcoming multi-media performance, “Body Psalms,” “a celebration of the sanctity of the body.”
It takes the form of “sculptural poetry,” where the bodies of performers become both moving sculptures and canvases on which are written sacred scriptures and mystical writings in calligraphy.
The show is 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, at the Myrna Loy Center. Tickets are $15 and are available at the box office. Holmes’ performance is part of the Myrna Loy Center’s Grants to Artists program.
Live dance, a choir and comedy are just part of Holmes’ ever-evolving creative mix. He will also show two new films of his work — one a U.S. premiere and the other, a world premiere. Thursday’s performance will be his most comprehensive “Body Psalms” presentation to date.
One film, “Mirabai’s Mountain,” four years in the making is about a 16th century Indian mystic who sacrifices herself to her god.
The project’s created a pretty furious dialogue by a few Hindus, admits Holmes, who admires and respects Mirabai’s life and writings.
“She’s very famous in India,” he said. “She is like Rumi, a writer of beautiful mystic poetry. I’m deeply impressed by her.”
This show continues Holmes’ ongoing series of award-winning “Body Psalms” films, events and performances created over the past 12 years exploring the devaluation of the body.
“The whole point of these films and the larger context is to call into question our valuation of the flesh,” Holmes said. “We have constructed a culture that doesn’t allow us to live in our bodies freely.”
This is particularly true for women, he said.
“The flesh in our culture becomes a commodity,” he said, referring to the way advertising and pornographers portray women’s bodies.
There are tragic consequences for a society that holds this view, he adds. “Eighty percent of women in our culture do not like their bodies. That is a direct consequence of that commodification.
“I’m making sculptures of the beautiful human body — but how can people find beauty if they can’t even see beauty in themselves?” he asks.
He contends that how we live in our bodies is how we live in the natural world: “Our body is our own garden. What we do to nature, we are doing to our own flesh. Before we can take care of the environment, we need to take care of our own flesh.”
Holmes sees the role of today’s artist as stepping out of the studio, not just as a performer, but a catalyst — a role, at which he is adept.
A philosopher, political satirist and the son of a Methodist preacher, Holmes is skilled at looking beneath the surface of popular culture. Thirty-six years ago he was a founding member of the Montana Logging and Ballet Company, which became National Public Radio’s resident political satirists during the Clinton years.
“What’s so crucial,” he said, “is that art is moving out of the museum. Artists are moving away from traditional media. I’m not being constrained that I’m a sculptor or do just film shows. I want to do art that engages people where they live.
“The point of this is that we get to create our own future,” Holmes said. “It’s not just shoved on us by the headlines … we can decide what our future will be like.”
An internationally recognized artist, Holmes is the first American artist ever invited to hold a solo exhibit at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, and his works have been used in many international peace and human rights awards.
“I really want people to have a sense this is going to be fun,” he said. “There’s going to be comedy. It will be light. Hopefully, people will leave the theater with a renewed sense of urgency and hope.”
The audience is also welcome to participate in a discussion with the performers and artist following the show.