JBU Gallery: Auction for St. Francis

A show at the John Brown University gallery opened last night. The works are by artists from a local fellowship that meets regularly to talk about their work. Forty percent of the sale price of each work will go to Siloam Springs’ St. Francis Clinic.

The paintings — along with a couple colored pencil works — caused me to consider again what I perceive to be a prevailing lack of imagination among Christian artists. The works on display are best described as impressionism and realism. Please don’t think I’m ragging on impressionism or realism per se. There are a lot of works in these genres which I love. Monet’s haystacks and Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring for instance. Even the painting above intrigues me with its texture and movement.

My concern is that artists — perhaps (though I’ve no research to cite for this) particularly those of the Christian faith — use these traditional methods as a crutch. Bob Ross was a blast, but at the same time he created clones. He didn’t encourage personal exploration of the human imagination through the fine arts.

Some of the work in the show piqued my interest. I knew of Nancy Rodriguez’s painting, and I like her composition and use of the paper’s edge. One of the first very brief artist bios I read at this show used the word imagination. I was cynically surprised. I understand that some of my judgment likely stems from personal aesthetics, but at the same time I believe in the existance of an observable lack of imaginitive creativity in many of these works. Or perhaps my understanding of the word “imagination” is too strict. I know what I’m suggesting is very difficult to measure; it’s pretty subjective.

And no, I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Instead I wish to spur my peers on to greater works, works which will influence and witness to the culture around us — to be a “counterculture for the common good.”

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About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

2 Responses to JBU Gallery: Auction for St. Francis

  1. Tim J. says:

    I was one of the artists involved in the JBU show. I would like to invite you to come to our meetings! They are the last Monday of the month, and the meeting place rotates from one house to another. They are generally not too far from Siloam Springs.

    I hear your critique, but think you may not have taken into account that the theme of the show was “A Reverence For Nature”. That might make more naturalistic representations a thing to be expected.

    Also, I see you struggle with the meaning of art, as we all do. For instance, how do you square your comments above with your observations in posts like “In vain pursuit of the absolute original”? If the job of the artist is not to be original (and I maintain it is not), then what proper role should imagination be expected to play?

    As regards my own work (which I hope you could stand to look at without too much cynical surprise) I try to capture the essence of what attracts me to my original subject to begin with.

    I like matter. I like things, and form, and light. I like that no two plums are exactly alike.

    If one is not the kind of person that can fall in love with a peach, then one will not find anything particularly attractive in my painting of a peach. I am not especially interested in flights of fancy about “peachy”-ness. I find imaginary peaches dull and prosaic in comparison to the real thing, but that’s just me.

    I’m more interested in the peach than in my thoughts about the peach. I’m trying to pass something along, rather than conjure anything.

    An observer may think this requires little imagination, but this is not the case. None of my paintings really approach mere recording or photo-realism. All that said, I am just learning to paint.

    I appreciate your thoughts on modern church architecture (what I call Prayer Bunkers), but given our backgrounds, I wouldn’t be surprised to find us diverging on the best way to deal with the situation. I was recently involved with a church building committee. It is a demoralizing job for an artist.

    Our group have been discussing similar topics recently, you really should come.

  2. Pingback: Follow up: JBU Gallery St. Francis benefit « The Aesthetic Elevator

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