Episcopal visual artists reflect on grace

December 14, 2009

An association of Episcopal artists has launched its final exhibition of the year -- a slide show of two dozen pieces of art for Advent that best convey the varying concepts of grace. The exhibition, Full of Grace, can be viewed atwww.ecva.org.

"The term 'grace' has many definitions," said Moses Hoskins, a professional New York artist, who acted as curator for the show. "As a spiritual phenomenon, grace is unique in the experience of each individual, elusive and enigmatic – challenging 'material' as a subject for the visual artist."

The exhibition is presented in slide-show format. A deliberate sequence was established so that there would be common links from one image to another, evident in literal thematic similarities or through visual resemblance such as color or other traits of composition, Hoskins said. "It is intended that a narrative evolve, implied in a unified sequence of eclectic visual stimuli."

Guided by light Diane Walker, the new exhibitions director for the Episcopal Church & Visual Arts, said the icon Christ the Teacher by Mary Jane Miller, with its text "I have come as light into this world," is a most appropriate lead to the exhibition. "Certainly that light guided all of the contributing artists as they bent their heads and their hearts to the task of portraying the many and varying aspects of grace," she said.

"We hope that light might also shine through this exhibition and enhance viewers' own awareness and understanding of grace during this Advent season," said Walker, a photographer from Bainbridge Island, Wash.

ECVA's president and executive director, Mel Ahlborn, announced in December that the association would undertake five shows in the coming year. The series, titled, I Will with God's Help, will be artists' meditations on the baptismal covenant.

"Each of the five themes – the first, 'Recognition and Return,' will be launched Ash Wednesday – is rich with creative potential and will, we hope, prompt new visual inquiry," she said. The remaining four titles are "In Fellowship and Communion"; "Seeking Christ in All Persons"; "With Dignity, Justice and Peace"; and "By Word and Example."

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written a statement upon which the series will be based.

"Baptism is about death to old identities and solidarities, and rebirth into a land of hope and promise and abundant life for all," she wrote. "It is a washing away of old markers and a putting on of the odor of righteousness, a marker that is not limited to one small place, but is meant to waft through the world like the wind of the Spirit. Baptism is meant to bless the world through the marked, as each one serves the hungry, sick and frightened. This water is meant to roll on like a river of blessing, bringing peace to the warring and healing to the nations."

Ahlborn said she hoped that artists from The Registry @ ECVA would burst forth with new work that gives a 21st-century visual presence to the foundations of ancient Christian faith contained in the baptismal covenant.

To view the exhibition, as well as past shows, or to discover how to support the arts in liturgy and worship, go to: www.ecva.org.