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Toni Greaves, Photographer

The sudden revelation of a powerful religious calling was an entirely unexpected event in the life of a college student named Lauren. But when it became clear to her that she had a spiritual vocation, she made the exceptional decision to dedicate her life to God. Drawing upon many visits to the cloistered religious community of Dominican nuns in Summit, New Jersey, photographer Toni Greaves has created a luminous body of work that follows the transformative journey by which Lauren became Sister Maria Teresa of the Sacred Heart. Greaves’ meditative photographs capture the radical joy of a life dedicated unequivocally to love.

On October 6, 2015, Toni Greaves joins BCSR to present and discuss her long-term project photographing within a community of cloistered nuns, her personal journey along the way, and the just-published monograph of this seven-year body of work.

Radical Love, Toni Greaves’ documentary of a young woman who chooses to become a cloistered Dominican nun, highlights why ‘we’—‘normal,’ secular, or even not so secular persons wholly anchored in the ‘world’—are often so taken aback at the sight of others, who make life-changing turns toward the divine.  Christian nuns and monks, especially those who chose a life of radical withdrawal from this world, are often considered relics of the past, or suspected of not being fully equipped for modern life, and it can be a shock to see that they are quite clearly neither, but rather ‘ordinary’ persons enjoying life to the full when they are called to love God radically. If they are not in some way peculiar then what does such radical love say about the rest of us? Women and men who live a life of ascetic, withdrawn monasticism are living embodiments of a life that questions many of our assumptions. Without rejecting what we do, they embrace a life that is wholly other, while still very much like ours: they have fun, they cook, they play sports, they run their website and do their accounts, and they are cloistered nuns, brides of Christ.What does their choice of life, their vocation, reveal about our current society? Why do we—or why does Toni Greaves—consider their love so radical? This book and its subject matter bring into focus some of the central themes of BCSR: the heuristic value of religion for the understanding of any society, ours included.” Susanna Elm, Director, BCSR

Toni Greaves is a documentary photographer based in Portland, Oregon, and working worldwide. Born and raised in Australia, she earned her MA in Visual Communication Design prior to graduating from the International Center of Photography in New York City. She is the recipient of many awards and honors, including Pictures of the Year International (POYi), Visa pour l’Image, Palm Springs Photo Festival, PDN’s 30, Communication Arts, American Photography, Review Santa Fe, and Critical Mass’ top 50, among many others. Her photographs have been featured in magazines and publications internationally, including the New York Times Magazine, Time, Al Jazeera America, Le Monde, Marie Claire, and The Wall Street Journal, among many others, and her work has been exhibited around the globe. Her first photographic monograph, Radical Love, is scheduled for a September release from Chronicle Books.

Photo: Toni Greaves

Lamia Balafrej, Assistant Professor of Art, Wellesley College

In the fifteenth century, Persian book painting becomes filled with extra-textual figures, deviating from and subverting the textual story they supposedly illustrate. Through a careful analysis of aspects of facture and composition, combined with an exploration of primary art historiographical sources, this talk suggests that this departure from illustration transformed the painting into a reflexive medium commenting on art itself, its function and its status, and above all, its relationship to God’s creation. Through the proliferation of forms and its polished appearance, the painting becomes a catalog of ideal, primordial forms, paradoxically emphasizing both its unmade aspect and the Demiurgic talent of the painter.

Lamia Balafrej is an Assistant Professor of Art at Wellesley College working on the Islamic world. Her current book project examines the visual culture of late Timurid painting (c. 1470-1500) and its intersection with shifting paradigms of authorship and issues of reception. She has degrees from the Sorbonne, the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and the University of Aix-Marseille, and held a number of research fellowships in France, Turkey and the United States.

UCBBCSRposter201516MAcropBCSR is pleased to announce its 2015-16 program of public lectures and events. Scholars and artists from a wide range of backgrounds will address diverse topics in religion, from the lives of cloistered nuns in New Jersey, to fifteenth-century Persian painting, to the role of Christians in the articulation of religious identity in the Mongol Empire. The annual Berkeley Lecture on Religious Tolerance brings Professor Veena Das to explore the boundaries of the self and the tameness of the concept of religious tolerance.

The upcoming season also adds Theology and East Asian Traditions, a new series funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. Theology and East Asian Traditions will hold a lecture by Vincent Goossaert on the history of Chinese divine bureaucracy, followed by a two-day workshop on the reception of European categories in East Asia.

Radical Love: A Photographic Narrative of Cloistered Religious Life
Toni Greaves, Photographer
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
3335 Dwinelle Hall
Berkeley Seminars in Art and Religion

“Tablet of Being”: Persian Painting and the Demiurgic Artist in Fifteenth Century Iran and Central Asia
Lamia Balafrej, Assistant Professor of Art, Wellesley College
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
370 Dwinelle Hall
Berkeley Seminars in Art and Religion

Beyond the Second Commandment: Image Wars in Past and Present
Birgit Meyer, Professor of Religious Studies, Utrecht University
Thursday, November 19, 2015
370 Dwinelle Hall
Berkeley Public Forum on Religion

Theology and the Danish Politics of Offense
Noreen Khawaja, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Yale University
Thursday, February 4, 2016
370 Dwinelle Hall
Berkeley Public Forum on Religion

More than Religious Tolerance: Self, Other, and Mysteries of Erotics
Veena Das, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall
Berkeley Lecture on Religious Tolerance

Of Mistakes, Errors, and Superstition: Wittgenstein’s Remarks on Frazer
Colloquium with Veena Das

Wednesday, February 24, 2016, 4-6 pm
3401 Dwinelle Hall
Berkeley Lecture on Religious Tolerance

The Mongols and the Church of the East
Joel Walker, Jon Bridgman Endowed Associate Professor of History, University of Washington
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
3335 Dwinelle Hall
Berkeley Public Forum on Religion

A Brief History of the Chinese Divine Bureaucracy
Vincent Goossaert, Directeur d’études, Sciences religieuses, École Pratique des Hautes Études
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
3335 Dwinelle Hall
Theology and East Asian Traditions

Workshop | The Reception and Impact of “Theology,” “Religion,” and “Philosophy” in East Asia
Thursday, March 17 and Friday, March 18, 2016
3335 Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley
Berkeley Public Theology Program: Theology and East Asian Traditions

If I Give My Soul: Pentecostalism in the Prisons of Rio
Andrew Johnson, Filmmaker and Co-Director
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Film Screening and Discussion
Sibley Auditorium
Berkeley Seminars in Art and Religion

All events take place at UC Berkeley and start at 5 pm unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public.

By connecting scholars, students, and the global community, BCSR fosters critical and creative scholarship on religion and activates this scholarship for UC Berkeley students and the public at large.

Presented with the support of UC Berkeley’s Division of Arts and Humanities, and the Endowed Fund for the Study of Religious Tolerance. Theology and East Asian Traditions is presented with the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation. Selected events co-sponsored by the History of Art Department, Late Antique Religions et Societies, and the Eliaser Chair in International Studies.