Several years ago, I hung an exhibit of art by John August Swanson in the Leep Gallery at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in Grand Rapids, Michigan. During the exhibit, I talked to Rev. Karl Van Harn, the director of pastoral services at Pine Rest, about how he was using Swanson’s art as part of his pastoral ministry.
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During this season of Advent we celebrate God’s extraordinary gift of his son, Jesus, who became the bridge between heaven and earth, a redeeming bridge between God and us. Through the incarnation of Christ, this spark of God’s glory, the Word, became flesh and dwelt among us. This is one of the core treasures of the Christian church, shared by believers of all faiths and denominations.
There is much to learn about art and its relationship to the Christian faith by studying the art of Sandra Bowden and reflecting on her own journey as a Christian artist.
Bowden has spent a lifetime creating art inspired by her explorations into the origins of our Judeo-Christian religious traditions. For more than forty years she has been on a journey of discovery deep into the mysteries of the Christian faith. Through her art she explores how image, text, and language can be used to bring ancient wisdom of the past into the present moment, making history alive and relevant.
Sometimes we don’t know we have something until it is taken away. Sometimes we don’t value something until it’s gone. Sometimes we fail to recognize the significance of something until we try to imagine our lives without it.
To the artist John August Swanson, art is a journey into the wonder of life. His art explores the ongoing narrative of God and God’s people through visual stories filled with hope, faith, and love. Swanson’s art guides us to see the sacredness of our ordinary lives and reflects the unique beauty of our everyday experiences. They become visual parables of the daily lives we share.
Many Christians are called to be artists. For them, art is the most effective way to express their faith. Calligrapher Timothy R. Botts reflects, “As an artist, I listen to God through my eyes and I’m speaking back to him through what comes out of my hands.” In the ongoing quest of “making visible the invisible,” artists find themselves exploring the age-old notion of beauty within the context of their contemporary Christian visions.