Visual Arts

All Is Calm, All Is Bright

Visuals for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany

The theme for these Advent/Christmas/Epiphany visuals is “All Is Calm, All Is Bright.” It was inspired by the two hundredth anniversary (in 2018) of the composition of the well-loved Christmas carol “Silent Night! Holy Night” Mohr, LUYH 85, GtG 122, PsH 344. The visual elements incorporated into the sanctuary during the season carried great meaning and significance.

Broken: A Tenebrae Service with Visuals

The Road of Suffering According to the Gospel of John
In considering art pieces that would capture the events leading to Christ’s death, the idea of using simple images and fabric came to mind. Textiles are flexible, offering texture and color. Each of the art pieces is made of cut fabric that has been woven or pinned together and stitched onto a base fabric. They were backed with quilt batting, then machine-stitched to add color and form. The color palette is limited for all seven pieces: Blacks and grays create a dark, foreboding atmosphere; teal contrasts with blood red.

The Art Pieces

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.

Twenty years ago I adopted my daughter from Russia. While I was there I had the opportunity to visit several Russian churches with their golden onion-shaped domes and altars covered in icons. Icons are paintings of biblical characters, and the artists over the centuries were careful to keep the style and form of each character as consistent as possible. I asked our tour guide a question that betrayed my ignorance. “Why icons?” She quickly reminded me that most of the peasants in those days were illiterate, and the icons were there to help them “read” the Bible.

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.

Not many people see everything around them, and few are acute observers of their environment. In fact, most of us see just enough to prevent us from falling. That kind of seeing is a safety device. Real seeing requires the use of your mind’s eye and making connections with a world that is beyond the physical. You could call it “seeing with your soul.”