My work’s sole purpose is the spreading of the Gospel, with a particular focus on the Holy Scriptures, their interpretation, and the illustration of the historical and theological truths contained therein. I believe God has placed me in a specific time, the "Post-truth" era of pluralistic, cultural relativism and secular humanism, and that He has done so for a precise purpose. I believe that as an artist and professor of art, He has armed me with certain talents and a professional calling that has made clear my own mission: to speak and share the Word of God into the lives of a generation who struggle with finding meaning and purpose in a culture that is in decay.
Art is communication. Throughout history, visual art has been primary in disseminating and preserving information. Though often times it is employed as a means of recording the "facts" of objective reality, it is also capable of presenting the unseen world of the imagination, the emotions and the soul. With this range of capacities, visual art is an ideal medium for expressing the totality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is able to picture both the space-time historical facts of our Lord and Savior, but even more profoundly, it is able to express the spiritual truths of what His birth, death and resurrection achieved for human beings in a fallen world. Art is able to do so in ways that touch the soul of struggling sinners, and in a way that is more universal than the spoken or written word might be capable of. In my own art I strive to mimic, albeit somewhat naively and surely less profoundly, what the Lord did through parables: use symbolic language to speak of the radical love and holiness of God, His offer of salvation, His perfect justice, and His plan for a new Heaven and Earth.
Art is the way I draw near to God. It is both intellectual and experiential in its nature, and, as such, predicated upon aspects of God’s good design when he created humans in His image. He endowed us with reason and emotion, with the ability to create from chaos and find organization and order. My work reflects this in its diversity of approach. Its two basic streams are what I have designated “Word and Image.” The “Word” stream is based on recording and illustrating, or illuminating, the text of Scripture and Sermon that I encounter in my studies, prayer and meditation, and church-going. The “Image” stream is based on the “Word” stream, and derives its imagery from my emotional and imaginative response to the reality that I experience internally when recalling how the Lord has moved me forward in my sanctification. He does so not only in my experiences of apprehending His truth by reason and logic, but also in the joy and suffering that is inherent in the day-to-day moments of existing as a human being.
Perhaps the greatest influence on my work stems from the philosophic mode of Francis Schaeffer. In general, it is his philosophical approach in speaking Biblical truth to a secular humanist world-view, and in particular his high esteem of Art, Music, Film and Literature and his perception of these disciplines as oracles for understanding the lost-ness of our Contemporary Age. His love for the arts, despite their current existential hopelessness, is apparent, and it is clear he see these cultural forms as crucial to human flourishing. He inspires me to create art that speaks to the 21st century human with a compassionate and sympathetic, yet bold and steely declaration of the power of Christ to save.
Artistically, I am influenced by two main genres: Illuminated Manuscripts and Visionary Outsider Art. Both traditions appeal to me for similar reasons, the most obvious of which is the inclusion of text alongside the images. I have always been drawn to narrative in art, and as an Appalachian native, storytelling has been crucial in stimulating my creative imagination. From early Biblical illustrations, to Albrecht Durer and William Blake, the attempts of artists to express the Scripture and its narrative has always produced evocative and compelling imagery that stirs the viewer’s intellect and emotions. In a similar way, Self-taught Visionary artists like Howard Finster and Thorton Dial create work that preach the truths of God logically and expressively, but with a rawness and fervor that seems to burn with saint-like steadfastness.
We must persist. We must…
Art has almost always been a part of the Christian tradition of spreading the Gospel. And when I speak of tradition, I do not mean a hollow or empty repetition of what our progenitors did in eloquently and faithfully creating art for the communication of the Messiah and His work on the Cross. We cannot do what they did, because while there are similarities in the struggles of men of every age, our current milieu has its own distinct issues, and in the same way, its own visual forms of communication. When I speak of a “Christian Tradition” of visual art, I simply mean employing the visual forms of the age in which a particular artist lives in out-picturing and expressing God’s truth. As Christian’s we have a duty to use all of the gifts of our era, and in the case of visual art, the styles and the media, to communicate the Gospel. Whatever our profession or station in life, we are to bring the light of Christ to bear in our callings. This is how we achieve our Great Commission.