For years the art editors of God's Friends have been asking for an
issue dedicated to the visual arts. And now we've created one! This issue departs
from our usual practice of having work by one or two artists that complements the
issue's theme. It features no fewer than six artists, whose work ranges from
landscape painting to collage, environmental installation to figure drawing. Not
surprisingly, the written word is less prominent than usual-in fact, we
considered the possibility of no text at all, presenting instead a "picture book"
on the intersection of art and spirituality.
But we soon realized that, however eloquently the art spoke for itself, we
also wanted to hear the artists speak about what they do and why. So we organized
a forum or group interview (see page 4), which begins by asking each artist: what
is the relationship of your spiritual life to your work as an artist? Did one
grow out of or lead to the other? Is making art a part of your spiritual
practice, or are the two one and the same? These folks have allowed themselves to
be vulnerable, opening their hearts and minds to a conversation that challenged
them to express their deepest selves in a different way than they are accustomed
to. Each artist speaks of the spiritual foundation for his or her work with
integrity and honesty. Some are Christian; others Buddhist or agnostic. Some find
that their work is most informed by solitude; others by community, the Bible, the
natural world, the figure, or the imagination. This conversation had to be
excerpted for print to give the artworks room to breathe, but a more complete
version appears on our website, www.godsfriends.org. There you'll also find
links to the individual artists' websites, as well as intriguing side paths to
the topic of art as incarnation.
We couldn't totally abandon written narrative, so these pages also include two
articles by practicing artists. Paul Fromberg, director of youth and family
ministry at St. Gregory's, writes about how painting opened up his prayer life,
and about his move into the more "communal" medium of large-scale installation.
And landscape artist Olivia Kuser, an emeritus art editor of God's
Friends, shares her struggles when the work does not come easily, or at all,
and finds saving grace in just seeing.
All these artists offer us gifts of imagery that engages our imaginations, our
emotions, and our intellects in ways that words simply cannot. They present the
notion of "radical hospitality," of the doors being flung open and an invitation
extended to come inside and join the conversation about art and the sacred,
creativity and inspiration. We welcome you to the table!
-Suzanne Fowler Palmer, Issue Editor
Two organizations were invaluable resources in putting this issue together.
Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) exists to explore and nurture the
relationship between the visual arts and Christianity, providing a variety of
resources for its member artists as well as a supportive network. CIVA president
Sandra Bowden is one of our contributing artists. We're also grateful to The
Episcopal Church and Visual Arts (ECVA), whose chair Mel Ahlborn helped focus the
issue. ECVA's mission is to encourage artists, individuals, congregations, and
scholars to engage the visual arts in the life of the church. Readers can learn
about these groups by visiting www.civa.org
and www.ecva.org. Members of both
organizations may be reading God's Friends for the first time; we hope to welcome
you as subscribers.
Seven Last Words, 1990, by Sandra Bowden. Collagraph
mixed media, 20" x 20".