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‘Beholding Salvation’ exhibit compelling

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Ehren E. Clark

Ehren E. Clark

"Beholding Salvation" is a rare and important opportunity for our community, of which Christianity is so fundamental, and to those of other faiths, to appreciate more fully the history of devotional images of the life of Christ, its purposes and meanings in a multiplicity of ways.

Here the viewer may find meaning in the art of the past and present and may enjoy an opportunity to behold that which is educational as well as inspiring.

Although it is uncommon that art of a historic nature may be meaningful today, the exhibition presents 170 historical artworks that may be very compelling.

The exhibit features examples of art spanning the history of Christian devotional art, from artists such as Rembrandt and Minerva Teichert, and contemporary artists such as J. Kirk Richards and Ron Richmond.

The ministry of Christ is seen in illuminated manuscripts, icons, sculpture and painting, both historical and contemporary. The exhibit offers an opportunity to experience how for 1,500 years Christ have been portrayed in diverse ways.

Much of the art seen in the exhibit was commissioned by the Catholic Church. These are examples of ways the church spread the Christian theological messages to the masses of early Christians who were mostly illiterate.

The early Christians became familiar with images that depicted biblical episodes of the life and ministry of Christ through symbols and scenes that had particular meanings.

Today, the contemporary visitor to the gallery has an opportunity to appreciate the same art the early Christians did and learn the meanings and messages in the works. As the visitor learns about the artists, the history and the conventions used, a new experience is possible.

Although many of the themes and episodes of Christ's life on display will be familiar to the Christian of today, much of the art will not be. Therefore, a new perspective may be achieved, leading to new and more profound contemplation of themes represented in this art.

Local, internationally recognized contemporary artists Richards and Richmond both exhibit two works that may seem unconventional. They represent two very different contemporaneous representations of the Christian doctrine; all are in oil and beautifully rendered. They represent aspects of the Christian messages in ways that allow the viewer to experience two very different ways of seeing and interpreting devotional art. Richards' approach expresses meaning through color, light and use of his individualized handling of paint, while Richmond achieves meaning through masterfully painted works that are emblematic and symbolic. Both add meaning through their specialized and individual responses to Christ's ministry.

Ehren E. Clark is a freelance art critic with a master's degree in art history and criticism. E-mail him at ehrlyne@hotmail.com.