James Nicholls's photograph of a threshold in Sudan accentuates the deep grain of long-weathered wood. The lined hand resting gently on the old timber mirrors the lined wood and holds a rosary. Not only visually but also through symbolism this photograph represents a cross—a point of intersection between the darkness inside and the brightness outside, between matter and spirit, between human and divine, and between time and eternity. Nicholls speculates that the man whose hand is pictured may be dead, for "there is terrible fighting in his area where the Dinka live in the upper Nile region." (nichollsphotography.com)
They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. —Psalm 1, verse 3
A visual response to the words of the first Psalm, Charles Dupree's Blue Tree flourishes in its watery environment. Its deep roots and fine branches inspire confidence that the tree will have strength and flexibility sufficient to withstand storms. Dupree works in the medium of encaustic—a specially formulated wax mixed with pigment that creates unique textural effects. As is so often true of modern and postmodern works, the medium is much of the message. The artist says, "As priest and artist, I love the mysterious effects of wax. Wax is to the canvas what incense is to the worship space. Light, smoke and the wonder of God inform all of my work."
Light of the World is a digital photograph taken looking up at the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The image is striking for its simplified palette and stark contrast of light and shadow. The skylight is right above the place where Jesus is said to have been buried. The opening in the roof reminded the photographer that the light of Christ cannot be extinguished by the powers and principalities of this world. "Allelulia, Christ Is Risen" is echoed in the strong radiant lines and shapes emanating from the opening to the heavens.
At the heart of the 23-acre Naramata retreat center in British Columbia is a space for prayer, contemplation and celebration designed by architect Isabel Chen. This very modern chapel is formed by traditional Christian symbols. The floor plan is in the shape of a fish. The space includes a small, contained area, like a tomb, as well as a huge wall of windows, suggesting the light of the resurrection, through which one looks out on creation. The space is warm and fragrant thanks to huge wooden beams reclaimed from old buildings.
Jeff Hunter's Radiance, a digital print, pulses with light and a sense of the luminosity of new life. Hunter, who lives in the U.K., says, "As a Quaker, the theme of the light is important to me. This piece is a meditation upon the Divine Light."
The Bible readings at the beginning of Lent say that after Jesus passed through the temptations in the wilderness, angels came to tend him. In our time we might dismiss the idea of heavenly messengers as naive or purely metaphorical. But Laura James offers matter-of-fact paintings of angels. The artist recalls that as a girl she would read while sitting on the roof of her family's brownstone in New York. She imagined that angels were with her in that secluded place. The Judeo-Christian story is well populated with angelic presence—they are messengers, challengers and comforters. We are not alone.
Although abstract, Linda McCray's work is rich in symbolism: that of color (the blue-black of the void and the purple of Lent) and of material, with ash and sand from Jerusalem affecting both color and texture. McCray is a painter, designer, art consultant for sacred space, retreat facilitator and adjunct professor who lives in Clancy, Montana. She writes: "Our Lenten journeys are about mortality and transformation. It is a time of spiritual renewal and drawing closer to Jesus. . . . In a universal theological sense, this painting is about kenosis, the emptiness that precedes grace."
In Lent we meet Jesus through stories about his teaching, his radical inclusion of the oppressed and marginalized and his acts of healing. We also meet Jesus in solitude and at prayer. Through color and texture Jan Laurie brings us not only an image of Jesus but also something of the essence of the Christ whom we seek to follow. The hanging is made of layers and layers of fabric, thread and paint—reflecting the depth of the journey into God.
Times of transition, as seen in Brendon Purdy's Arcosanti, are potent times. It's no wonder that dawn and dusk are traditional times of prayer and devotion. Amid the grainy textures of cloud, land and people, the tiny point of the moon sets the cosmological context. Time-lapse photography has captured traces of the movements of the people, expanding our sense of time from "this moment" into "all moments." Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Purdy travels widely and says his "greatest hope as a photographer is to capture something beneath the obvious, such as grace, nobility, humanity or wonder."
In Daniel Bonnell's Cast Your Net Again the fishing net teems with life and so does the whole image. The strong diagonals played against the organic water forms create a dynamic tension. The drama is heightened by swirling brushstrokes, hot and cool colors, and high contrast. All this activity is set amid the quieter symbols of cross, morning, light and dark, height and depth. The painting (oil on canvas) hangs at Bethlehem Bible College in the Palestinian West Bank.
Sandra Bowden's art is a meditation on time and eternity based on biblical and archaeological sources. Megiddo (left) and Hazor (right) are two of four images from Bowden's series of intaglio collagraphs titled Israelite Tel Suite. The artist explains, "A tel is a mound covering the site of some ancient settlement, generally consisting of many layers of rubble and artifacts left by succeeding civilizations. Strata accentuated by horizontal lines divide the picture into three levels, forming a cross section of archaeological time. . . . centered in each piece [is] a significant specific object relating to the tel's history." From the creation of the plate through the one-by-one "pulling" of each print, the artist is engaged in an intensive process that exemplifies Marshall McLuhan's adage, "The medium is the message."
Synthia Saint James describes herself as a self-taught artist. She credits the Creator and her ancestry (African American, Native American, Haitian and German Jewish) for her artistic gifts. Her images dance on the edge between image and abstraction, simplicity and sophistication, pattern and picture. She uses color symbolically, with cadmium yellow ("golden healing light and love") at the top and in shining points throughout the cluster of women. Circle of Promise was commissioned by Susan G. Komen for the Cure for the Circle of Promise campaign, for which Saint James is a global ambassador. The painting is meant "to encourage hope, healing, unity and love in our fight against breast cancer."
Betty LaDuke of Ashland, Oregon, has spent decades traveling through the developing world. She has recently been painting people who have benefited from Heifer International, which donates animals to help families in poor countries become self-sufficient. Coptic Altar derives from her eight trips to Eritrea, a small country in the Horn of Africa. The painting is an aesthetic fusion of cultures, melding a Western genre with a contemporary African visual style. In the center panel Jesus, the Good Shepherd, stands at the threshold with a sheep, surrounded by admirers in various postures of prayer and reverence. In the left panel are more admirers of Christ, surrounded by angels and crosses. The right panel portrays a church leader accompanied by some of the faithful, who are sheltered by the Madonna and child, a crescent moon, saints and crosses.
(from The Story of Colors / La Historia de los Colores*)
Old Antonio sits on the ground telling his story. Inspired by seeing the toucans which fill the sky around him, he shares his people's story of how the colors came to be. In a style called naturalistic folk art and the visual equivalent of magical realism, Domi Domínguez brings life to Mayan folklore. Her forms are simple, bold and childlike, her colors rich. This image is one of many from story books she has illustrated—all upholding the culture and spiritual stories of Mexico's indigenous people. Domínguez has become one of the most significant of the indigenous artists in Mexico. Her paintings and sculptures, in which she has developed a very personal and postmodern style, are leavened with the wit and wisdom of her own Mazatecan culture.
* The Story of Colors was written by Subcomandante Marcos. Domínguez has also illustrated stories by Rigoberta Menchu.