About the Artist (continued from page 1)
Art and the Spirit
My art is racially and culturally inclusive, encouraging diverse people to talk with each other about their spirituality and how it empowers them, how it is similar to and different from other people’s spirituality. My work also engages people with ideas of faith and leads people to see spirit at work all around us, thus stimulating discussion about various religions and their teachings. My form of interfaith dialogue is about connecting with others, to empower one another with hope, help, encouragement, and guidance. I believe many urban (and world) problems can find solutions and/or healing through spirituality.
One reason I do this work is that we live in an era of great fear, distrust, and misunderstanding about other people’s faiths and religions, which leads to conflict, injustice, and ultimately war. I intend through my art to bring understanding and reconciliation to the table. Art is a marvelous vehicle for expressing spirit because the spiritual isn’t very logical, linear, or verbal. Many of its stirrings, connections, and revelations are better depicted visually, better shown rather than told. And the open-endedness of artistic expression leaves much room for interpretation, differences, and respectful discussion.
My Personal Spiritual Journey Through Art
In Fall 2007, I painted a nativity triptych, “God’s Child of Justice,” which I believe was pivotal in my artistic/spiritual development. In this work many contemporary urban people (Muslims and Jews as well as Christians) gather around the “justice child,” a relatively small figure in the three-panel canvas. The majority of the triptych is devoted to people of different races, cultures, and religions carrying signs for various causes and united in their desire for the reign of justice. In the same time period, I also worked with children at Bethlehem Lutheran Church on an eight-painting series depicting the creation story in Genesis. In this series, I came to appreciate as never before the Hebrew Bible.
In 2008, my journey continued into an interfaith spirituality and a more humanitarian, service-oriented subject matter. I was commissioned and began to create a series of paintings based on social-service ministries in Washington DC associated with the Church of the Saviour there. In these paintings (so far eight) the focus is on service and the ministries’ love and care for neighbor.
In 2009, I received an Artist Initiative Grant from the state of Minnesota and made a series of 21 paintings on the theme of urban healing. In July, I also painted a large outdoor mural for La Puerta Abierta, a Hispanic church in West St. Paul, MN. Though my paintings are often large and action-oriented, this mural (approximately 7 ft. x 100 ft.) is my largest work yet. In it, as so often, I depict many figures and use the figures to convey action/emotion and to narrate stories. In this case, the story is about La Puerta Abierta and how it strives to be an “open door” for Latinos in the Twin Cities, providing spiritual nurture and guidance, but also support and help in all aspects of people’s lives.
Current and Upcoming Art/Spirit Projects
My current work and plans for the future involve looking at these elements of spirituality: prayer, help, hope, direction, revelation, call, service, healing, reconciliation, liberation, and empowerment. I am working on several new series of work incorporating these facets of spirit:
1. Immigrants and Their Faiths – spiritual paintings/portraits, not just a physical portrait, but showing how individual immigrants and/or their families relate to some of the elements of spirit.
2. Spirit and the Citizenry – spiritual paintings/portraits, showing how individual Americans and/or their families relate to some of the elements of spirit.
3. Children and Spirituality – paintings, drawings, and stories/coloring books about how individual children and fictional kid characters relate to and learn about the elements of spirit.
4. Celebrations of Spirit – paintings of festivals, celebrations, services and ceremonies of a spiritual nature (various religions, faiths, and spiritualities)
5. Spirit Places– paintings, drawings of various imagined locations where spirit is at work: spirit forum, spirit school, spirit clinic, spirit beach, spirit café, spirit garden, spirit park/playground.
6. Spirit People – daily black and white drawings (on my blog) about the Spirit Rock Gang, a spiritually/religiously-diverse group of urban kids and their spiritual adventures.