Artists search for light in the darkness

December 18, 2008

The Advent Collect, echoing Paul's words in Romans 13:12, admonishes us to "cast away the works of darkness and put upon us the armor of light," says Margaret Adams Parker, a Washington, D.C., artist, who introduces the latest exhibition on the website of the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts.

"What we understand from these repeated references to light, is a mysterious link between light and the holy. And while many other religious traditions draw this same connection, what distinguishes us as Christians is our belief that the Light became incarnate and lived among us. So we understand Light as a manifestation of the mystery and power of God the Creator and as the Light of the World, the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ."

Adams Parker, curator of the exhibition titled "Light of the World," says she finds it fitting that, during the seasons that celebrate the Incarnation, texts about light occur so frequently. As a result of the association's call to Episcopal artists, more than 30 works were selected for this show, including photographs, oil paintings, acrylics, watercolors, mixed media, icons, textile and fabric art, and sculpture, both in bronze and wood.

Many visitors to the ECVA website are likely to discover that their journey from Advent to Epiphany is enriched by the images they see. Says Adams Parker: "I hope they may inspire us all to live by the words of the Collect for the first Sunday after Christmas: "Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives…"

The works chosen for the exhibition embody a broad interpretation of the theme and include both literal and symbolic light. Submissions by ECVA photographers is strong and various -- the Rev. Scott Fisher's "Early Winter Morning," records a scene of crystalline clarity in winter, while Diane Walker's "Chosen," conveys a sense of mystery in her use of light. Some photographers picture paths or distant doorways that draw the viewer forward, such as Robert Epley's "An Invitation to Follow" and Krystyna Sanderson's "Places of Light 3."

Adams Parker said that while she recognizes that Orthodox theologians and some artists would not include icon paintings in an exhibition of art, she believes that the Western church has much to gain from its appropriation of this ancient visual form, and so she included two -- by Betsy Porter and Zachary Roesemann -- in her selection of images.

A painting by Connie K. Sales of Mary, waiting patiently for the birth of her baby Jesus, titled "Mary, my God says /Yes, says my Mary" (displayed above), is one of a number of Mary paintings Sales has done. "My Marys are based on my meditations with the prayers of the Rosary," she said. "I started with "Mary, my God says;" the beginning when Mary not only listens but hears God's call to her. You feel her small voice answer back eventually 'Yes' to God."

Sales, a native of Texas who is currently artist-in-residence at Grace Episcopal Church in Nampa, Idaho, says she "lives her work, which is always a reflection of the state of my heart, mind and soul." She said she pursued my drawings through her connection to the Rosary, since being presented with one in 2001. "I have a strong relationship and often seek answers by praying the rosary," she said. "So it is with these drawings."

At the end of Epiphany "The Light of the World" exhibition will be moved to the archives section of ECVA's website where visitors can also view 25 other exhibitions that have been created since the association was formed six years ago.