Feb 12, 2014
Art selection and comment by Lil Copan
Tattoos, according to tattoo artist Danny Siviter, represent some of the most permanent statements a person can make. Some people use them to tell stories, some just to decorate their bodies, and some to proclaim what is most important in their lives. For many, what’s important is some aspect of their faith. Curated by Anna Golladay and Carl Greene, the exhibit Faithmarks, an initiative of St. Marks Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, reflects the stories and spirituality of the city’s Northshore community. Each photograph is accompanied by a personal narrative. Portions of the exhibit are available to travel. More information is at ourfaithmarks.com.
Jan 09, 2014
Art selection and comment by Lil Copan
Artist and illustrator Rick LaMarre imagines what the disciple Peter would do the day or two after denying Jesus. Would he return to fishing, the world he knows? Would he go fishing but find himself unable to focus on the work? “What do you do between the time when you blow up your whole world and the time when God rescues you?” wonders LaMarre. “How is it when faith is the only thing you have, yet you feel you don’t even deserve that?”
Dec 13, 2013
Art selection and comment by Lil Copan
It was a simple oak table adorned with plain dishes and a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables.” So begins Roger Hutchison’s book The Painting Table: A Journal of Loss and Joy, a combination storybook and guide, inspired by a table left to him by his grandmother. Readers are invited to paint while they explore grief, loss and relationships. The gift of the table is one that Hutchison, canon for children’s ministries at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, South Carolina, passes on to people of all ages in schools, churches and community groups. In response to his work, painting table groups have formed across the country.
Oct 16, 2013
Art selection and commentary by Lil Copan
Rwanda: Celebrating the Gift of the Heifer “Consolation”; Poland: Brzezowka Village Hen Project; Uganda: Mrs. Nanfuka Teopista’s Goats, by Betty LaDuke
Oregon artist Betty LaDuke writes: “My art work is based on multicultural explorations of how we love, live and die. Individual and shared expressions of grief, joy, dignity and hope are the themes of my drawings and paintings.” In her color-rich acrylic paintings on panel, she portrays individuals of different cultures accompanied by the gift of animals—cows, chickens, goats—that feed, nurture and sustain their communities.
Papel tejido refers to woven paper constructions. This one is two-sided and can be hung in any direction. Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia says his works are inspired by Scottish tartan designs, basket weaving and abstract painting. Segovia’s works reflect Christian iconography and his own journey from Mexico to Los Angeles.
Visionaries, martyrs and activists are featured in Pamela Chatterton-Purdy’s Icons of the Civil Rights Movement. Her 26 panels contain short histories, quotes and dates. “The shape of each icon was designed to suggest a holy tablet, a monument, a bridge, a cross, or even a headstone,” said the artist. “The people, places, and events of the civil rights movement and particularly its philosophy and practice of nonviolence led me to believe there was a ‘Holy Spirit’ dimension to this movement.”
Margaret Adams Parker’s woodcuts often present refugees and sojourners, as does African Exodus, which refers to refugees of the Rwandan genocide. Influenced by the work of Käthe Kollwitz, Parker creates images articulating a singular as well as familiar story in stark black against a light background “I am reminded,” Parker writes, “of Albert Schweitzer’s injunction to ‘think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.’”
West Coast Quaker artist Cynthia Large came to her explorations of faith through her study of art history. She met the saints through medieval and Renaissance paintings “that possess a crystalline clarity of surface detail and a narrative strangeness that has never been surpassed,” she says. Her series Holy Mischief portrays “the lives of the most restive and unruly figures in the history of religion.” These egg tempera and oil paintings, set within carved mahogany frames, feature figures such as Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich and Christina of Liège. Christina of Liège, or Christina the Astonishing, was a popular saint who was not formally beatified. Catholic writer Tony Staley says that “she stands out from the canon because her life . . . is not held up as an example to be followed. . . . It seems that she served the people of Liège as a wailing manifestation of their hidden consciences, laying bare their dark secrets and vices.” Legend has it that at her funeral mass she flew up out of her coffin and perched in the rafters of the church.
Having struggled with a rare cancer that offered little chance of recovery, Poetry magazine editor Christian Wiman has navigated his way through questions of belief and death. His cartography begins early in his life with the story of his grandmother and elderly great aunt. During his early adult years, Wiman lived in a trailer in the yard of “the big house” where they lived.
From Daily Cross (clockwise from top left): Sand Cross, Apple Cross, Bunker Cross, Phila Cross.
Gerda Liebmann’s Daily Cross began on Facebook. Soon other photographers expressed interest in participating, and Liebmann began posting the global community’s photographs of crosses. “At first, this Daily Cross project felt like a form of visual play. It was fun and challenging to find crosses on the street, in stores and in nature. . . . But soon the project took on another dimension. Looking for the symbol of redemption in the world began to feel more and more like seeking evidence of redemption itself.” The collective act of finding “that stark symbol of the Christian faith” is also each photographer’s journey to God, through Christ on the cross.
"I am not strictly a realist,” says Los Angeles artist Madeleine Avirov. “Where traditional oil painting is mostly about exteriors, speaking to us by way of what it refers to rather than by the way in which it envisages, I have, since childhood, been driven by a faith in the mysterious forces that allow me to enter my subjects. To be present, in other words, to other modes of being. The goal is not only to show ‘things,’ but also the soul of the thing, whatever it is in the middle ground that makes us go toward this thing and not that. Some of the works read like hallucinations—real and unreal together, some elements way out of normal scale.”
Vermont artist Jerry Geier’s sculptures often feature commonplace moments and ordinary people. Even the material he uses—terra-cotta—reflects the most common of elements, earth. In this representation of the Last Supper, in which Jesus’ back is to the viewer, Geier captures a moment of companionable humor. Trust and appreciation are on the faces of the disciples. But clearly something else is also going on. Arms stretched as though in embrace and blessing, Jesus is the one who faces the window, the curtains blowing. “The window shows a breeze, which I see as a symbolic breath of fresh air, new life, perhaps the Holy Spirit flowing in,” Geier writes. “It all takes place in a modest little house of some kind, with wooden floors and simple walls.”
While many artists seek to convey a sense of the layers of suffering and anguish in the Passion of Christ, few consider what the medium itself conveys. This life-sized sculpture appears weightless, and it radiates light and lightness. “In the context of my artworks,” Scala writes, “the use of partially transparent wire fabrics allows the examination of the underlying structure of the subject. By shaping Christ’s image into a hollow form and introducing gold to the surface, the sculpture takes on a transparent and yet reflective character.”
Artist-musician Chris Taylor writes that he was driving home one day, with his thoughts spiraling “into stress and sadness.” A truck pulled in front of him with the message “Jesus loves you” written on it. At first he thought, “What a cruel cosmic joke.” His next thought was to pray the Lord’s Prayer. “So I prayed the whole thing, top to bottom. Forgot I even know it . . . how simple and all encompassing it is.” He then produced the prayer in visual form.
I see [making] portraits as a way to say hello to one another,” says Bryce McCloud, artist-in-residence at Room in the Inn in Nashville, Tennessee, and leader of the city’s arts project “Our Town.” (The project and his residency are sponsored by the Thomas P. Seigenthaler Fund for Creativity.) McCloud’s work with the homeless community—and the larger Nashville community—is a way of introducing neighbor to neighbor. “Art can bridge the gap between class, culture and condition in life. It has the power to bring us together. . . . We begin to see that no man or woman is truly a stranger.” The workshop participants used paints, ink stamps, charcoal, cut paper, fingerprints, brushes. Then the images were translated to letterpress prints in McCloud’s shop Isle of Printing.
The idea for Girt came to Lanie Gannon when she saw Serbians fleeing their war-torn villages “with nothing but what they had strapped on their backs and what they had strapped to their wooden carts.” All that is left is the person, the head bound to the cart that moves into exile. “The head is a mystery that can never be solved, an eternal puzzle, vested with all the questions that I wrestle with. The head or bust is a crossroads where external, social and internal realities meet and mingle.” She understands her work as an artist as “offering yourself as a witness to something you’ve heard or seen in cases of wrongdoing.”
In the paintings of Tim Okamura, a Canadian artist working in Brooklyn, the hip-hop urban landscape becomes part of a contemporary icon. An urban setting that seems neglected, empty, disruptive or marginal frames the “sainting” of people. The images speak of courage, honor, strength, integrity, loyalty. King, in which various disciples, questioners or saints engage with a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr., is a kind of urban station of the cross. The image also alludes to iconic images of Veronica’s veil, which according to legend displayed the shape of Jesus’ face. Graffiti appears in Okamura’s paintings as a kind of calligraphy, as though a story is being written around each person. The scrawl that frames each image further ennobles the center figure.
In her mixed-media paintings, Sheila Mahoney Keefe combines abstraction with sparse representation—a table, a flower, a door. By paring down details, she provides room for prayer and imagination to enter. Her paintings reflect spiritual postures—reception, transformation, openness, resurrection—and take us beyond ourselves. Beneath Within brings to mind the words of St. Patrick’s Breastplate: “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.”
LePage combines his delight in graphic design with his dogged intention of reading scripture. The result is a website and graphic design that’s playful, reverent, irreverent, provocative—introducing biblical stories and themes with graphic power. Says LePage, “When I read the Bible now, I’m using my imagination to play a movie of what I’m reading—what it looks like. Maybe most people already do this, but everything I read, I got into the habit of combing for anything visual. Now, I’ve begun to think visually: What does the lion and the lamb look like?”