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Let the Gospel Reframe Your Art Making

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The entire room was captivated by the early-morning performance of a Buddhist offering made by way of Tibetan water bowls. I picked at my oatmeal and raisins, listening to the published author explain the offering’s ability to express gratitude and minimize selfishness. I was immersed in a weekend of writing workshops for young adults, where I’d later hear various seminars on art’s place as a vehicle for human rights advocacy—namely abortion, the acceptance of all gender identities, and the inclusivity of all religions.

As I sat in that room, surrounded by varying ideologies, I was saddened by the desperate search for meaning represented by the attempt to produce art for identity’s sake. It led me to ponder how the gospel offers a better vision for artists and creatives: a correct view of humanity, a love of the transcendentals, and the call to be chaos organizers rather than chaos makers.

Anthropological Anomaly

The question of identity colors every aspect of Western culture today. From birth, we’re set on a great quest to pave our own expressive path of purpose and value. What a burden this is. Thankfully, the gospel frees us from the crushing weight of discovering, expressing, and justifying our unique identities.

The gospel frees us from the crushing weight of discovering, expressing, and justifying our own unique identities.

Christ’s imputed righteousness saves us from finding ultimate purpose, value, and acceptance within ourselves or anything outside of our Creator. The fact that “God created man in his own image” (Gen. 1:27) also frees us from having to prove our worth. We’re valuable simply because we bear the imago Dei—reflecting God and glorifying him.

From the moment Adam and Eve sinned, the human race began its quest to become God rather than being a vessel of worship that reflects glory back to God. Instead of obeying God’s command to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28), we’ve sinfully embraced chaos and the lie that destruction is beautiful. The story of redemption, by which God foreordained the coming of a second Adam who would perfectly fulfill every duty in which the first Adam had failed, is the restoration of humanity. By God’s grace alone, we’re restored as image-bearers, worshipers, and lovers of the one true God.

Truth That Transcends

One distinction between humanity and other life-forms is our longing for what’s true, good, and beautiful. As creators, the gospel radically transforms the way we view these triadic virtues. God’s redemptive plan for humanity—Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension—gives profound definition to the true, the good, and the beautiful our hearts desire. This can all be reflected in our artistic pursuits. It’s no longer our truth, our goodness, and our idea of beauty we seek to express, but God’s.

This doesn’t mean our art as Christians should be sanitized and “safe,” avoiding anything unsettling or difficult. One way the gospel shapes our creativity is by giving us a willingness to not hide our places of brokenness or ignore our original state of total depravity. The cracks in our lives make the light of Christ shine all the more brightly.

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is beautiful, in part because its characters are utterly lost in their patterns of sin, so clearly in need of redemption. Some of Vincent van Gogh’s self-portraits feature his missing earlobe, a physical mark of his own brokenness, which makes the images more beautiful for their honesty. Mozart composed the Requiem in D Minor for a funeral, while facing the reality of death himself. Without the recognition of our utter wickedness, our lost and confused state, and the reality of death, we’d have no need for a Savior.

Formation in a Fallen World

Realism about sin isn’t the only way the gospel motivates Christian creativity. The resurrection should give our creative efforts a sense of confident hope. Scripture begins with creation in Genesis 1 and ends with re-creation in Revelation 21 (“Behold, I am making all things new,” v. 5). In a world of tears, pain, and suffering, the gospel leads us always in the direction of resurrection hope. As Christ died with the weight of our sins on his shoulders, he was raised to life on the third day.

The resurrection should give our creative efforts a sense of confident hope.

If we’ve been made new in Christ, our former reality of chaos and confusion has passed away (2 Cor. 5:17), giving way to more and more order and clarity. With confidence we can move forward, leaving honest glimpses of our journey in our words, paintings, songs, and actions. Even if we’re still in process and our creative expressions explore the struggle of sanctification, the gospel means our posture is always one of eschatological hope: we’re new creations, being made new by the power of the Spirit within us.

Command for Creators

I left that weekend of writing workshops with a few books signed by their authors, a better understanding of the culture around me, and a passion to use art as a way to share the gospel. The world is broken and in need of a Savior who will give life to the lost, hope to the powerless, and comfort to the sufferer.

Gospel-shaped art should honestly express the realities of a broken world, even as it offers meaning and hope after suffering and death. And gospel-shaped art has a purpose beyond self-expression. For Christians, the canvas is more than a mirror; it’s a magnifying lens—one that makes the glory of Christ abundantly clear to a watching world.

 

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Ehiko: The Multidisciplinary Artist Shaping Decolonization Through Art

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Ehiko, a multidisciplinary artist born in Lagos, Nigeria, now calls Toronto, Ontario, her home. An OCAD University graduate, she has gained recognition for her powerful and evocative works that delve into the complexities of decolonization, health and wellness, spirituality, sexual violence, and the representation of melanated hair.

Ehiko’s artistic journey began in the vibrant city of Lagos, where the rich cultural heritage and traditional artistry influenced her deeply. This foundation blossomed in Toronto, where she continued to experiment and manipulate raw canvas due to its flexibility. Her expressive palette and the use of various textiles pay homage to traditional Nigerian craftsmanship, creating a unique blend of contemporary and ancestral art forms.

Her works are not just visually striking but also laden with profound messages. Ehiko’s exploration of decolonization is evident in her large-scale multi-medium paintings, performances, drawings, and installations. Each piece she creates is a testament to her commitment to unravelling spirituality linked to traditional Afrakan masks, presenting a dialogue between the past and present.

One of the central themes in Ehiko’s work is health and wellness, particularly within the context of the Black community. She addresses the often-overlooked aspects of mental health and the importance of wellness practices rooted in African traditions. Through her art, Ehiko encourages a reconnection with these practices, promoting healing and resilience.

Sexual violence is another critical subject Ehiko tackles with sensitivity and boldness. Her works often depict the pain and trauma associated with such experiences while also highlighting the strength and resilience of survivors. By bringing these issues to the forefront, she fosters conversations that are essential for societal change and healing.

The representation of melanated hair in Ehiko’s art is a celebration of Black identity and beauty. Her pieces challenge societal norms and stereotypes, presenting Black hair in its diverse and natural forms. This representation is not only about aesthetics but also about reclaiming cultural identity and pride.

Ehiko’s exhibitions in Lagos and Toronto have garnered significant attention, and her private collection of purchased work is available upon request. Her contributions to the art world extend beyond her creations; she is also an advocate for using art as a tool for social change and empowerment.

In every piece, Ehiko weaves her experiences, heritage, and vision, creating a tapestry that speaks to the heart and mind. Her work is a powerful reminder of the role of art in decolonization and healing, and her journey continues to inspire and influence the global art community.

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Home + Away artwork opens in Vancouver’s Hastings Park

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A new art installation now towers over Vancouver’s Hastings Park fields in celebration of the city’s history of spectators and sports.

Home + Away is a sculpture by Seattle artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio, which opened Monday in the southeast end of the historic park.

It’s a 17-metre-tall structure that resembles a narrow set of bleachers — similar to the stands of the Empire Stadium, which stood on the site of the park from 1954 to 1993 and hosted The Beatles, among many others. It recalls a covered ski jump that stood there in the 1950s and the nearby wooden rollercoaster at the PNE.

The city says the public is invited to walk the stairs and sit on the benches.

“In addition to being visually striking, this artwork is intended to be ascended, sat on and experienced. It offers exciting experiences of height and views and provides 16 rows of seating for up to 49 people, making for a unique spectator experience when watching events at Empire Fields,” the city said in a release Monday.

The idea for the park to include public art was outlined in the Hastings Park “Master Plan,” first adopted by the city in 2010. The city says Han and Mihalyo first presented their design in 2015.

“It’s wonderful to see this piece realized within the context of such a well-used public space,” said Han.

Home + Away was inspired directly by the site history of spectatorship, and we hope it will connect Hastings Park users to that history and the majestic views of the environment for many decades to come,” added Mihalyo.

The artwork features a large light-up sign, in the style of a sports scoreboard, that reads “HOME” and “AWAY.”

 

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Bill Viola, Video Artist Who Established the Medium as an Integral Part of Contemporary Art, Dies at 73

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Bill Viola, whose decades-long engagement with video proved vital in establishing the medium as an integral part of contemporary art, died on July 12 at his home in Long Beach, California. He was at 73 years old. The cause was complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. The news of his passing was confirmed by James Cohan Gallery.

Viola’s works are centered around the idea of human consciousness and such fundamental experiences as birth, death, and spirituality. He delved into mystical traditions from Zen Buddhism to Islamic Sufism, as well as Western devotional art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in his videos, which often juxtaposed themes of life and death, light and dark, noise and silence. These explorations were achieved by submerging viewers in both image and sound with cutting-edge technologies for their time.

“I first used the camera and lens as a surrogate eye, to bring things closer, or to magnify them, to experiment with perception, to extend vision and make lengthy observations of simple objects,” Viola said in a 2015 interview. “Once you do that, their essence becomes visible. So I suppose I was always interested in the inner life of the world around me.”

Beginning in the 1970s, Viola created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast—all of which expanded the scope of the medium and established Viola as one of its most notable practitioner.

Video still of a man diving into water that has been reversed. The image is mostly black and teal.

In 2003 the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Tate, London; and the Centre Pompidou in Paris jointly acquired Bill Viola’s 2001 three-channel video installation Five Angels for the Millennium.

Photo Kira Perov/©Bill Viola Studio

Bill Viola was born in 1951. He grew up in Queens and Westbury, New York, and attended P.S. 20 in Flushing, before receiving his BFA in experimental studios from Syracuse University in 1973. There, he studied with visual art with the likes of Jack Nelson and electronic music with Franklin Morris.

Following his graduation, between 1973 to 1980, Viola studied and performed with composer David Tudor in the music group Rainforest, which later became known as Composers Inside Electronics. He also worked as technical director at the pioneering video studio Art/tapes/22 in Florence, Italy from 1974 to 1976. During that time he encountered the work of other seminal video artists like Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, and Vito Acconci.

Viola was subsequently an artist-in-residence at New York’s WNET Thirteen Television Laboratory between 1976 to 1983, wherein he created a series of works that premiered on television. He traveled to the Solomon Islands, Java, and Indonesia to record traditional performing arts between 1976 and 1977. Later that year, Viola was invited to show work at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, by cultural arts director Kira Perov, with whom he married and began a lifelong collaboration.

He was appointed an instructor in advanced video at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 1983. He was the Getty Research Institute scholar-in-residence in Los Angeles in 1998 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000.

In 1985, Viola received with a Guggenheim Fellowship for fine arts, and later that decade, in 1989, he was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. His work was also featured in some of the world’s most notable exhibitions, including Documenta VI in 1977, Documenta XI in 1992, the 1987 and 1993 editions of the Whitney Biennial, and the 2001 Venice Biennale.

In 1995, he represented the United States at the 46th edition of the Venice Biennale. For the pavilion, Viola produced the series of works “Buried Secrets,” including one of his most known works The Greeting, which offers a contemporary interpretation of Pontormo’s oil painting The Visitation (ca.1528–30). The Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and New York’s Guggenheim Museum commissioned the digital fresco cycle in high-definition video, titled Going Forth By Day, in 2002.

Viola’s work was the subject of a major 25-year survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997, which subsequently toured internationally. His work has been the subject of major museum retrospectives in the years since, including at the Grand Palais in Paris (in 2014), the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2017), the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain (2017), and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia (2019), as well as an exhibition pairing his work with that of Michelangelo at the Royal Academy of Art in London in 2019.

Viola is survived by his wife Kira Perov, who has been the executive director of his studio since 1978, and their two children.

“One thing that’s very exciting about video that has turned me on since I first saw this glowing image way back in 1970 is that it can be so much,” Viola said in a 1995 with Charlie Rose on the occasion of this US Pavilion at the Biennale. “Furthermore, what’s really exciting is I don’t think it’s been since really the Renaissance where artists have been able to use a medium that one could say is the dominant communication form in society.”

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