Two artists take different journeys in painting the Bible
Two artists, one from the U.S. and another from the U.K., have endeavored to paint scenes from the Bible. And yet, while their starting point may be the same, the approach, the output and the spiritual journey are very different, but equally meaningful.
Sure , evolving faith
Sheri Gaudet, a graduate of art at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.; and Brian Turner, a Brit who is a fine arts graduate from Exeter University in the U.K., may never meet in their lifetimes, but they share this in common, they have both painted the Bible.
Gaudet has painted several murals at West Virginia Wesleyan College, Buckhannon Manor and in private homes, The Record Delta said. She went into her latest project, a mural for Chapel Hill United Methodist Church with a clear concept of how she sees Jesus and interpreted it accordingly.
Gaudet views the finished product, which depicts the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, as a tool for ministry and a way to fulfill The Great Commission, which is God’s biblical command to share the gospel, The Record Delta said.
Modern twist to Bible stories
Turner of the U.K., on the other hand, has gained distinction in his career for adding a modern twist to biblical stories. He has done tours with some of his paintings and sold a number of works to private collectors, according to BBC News.
Turner decided to paint the entire Bible upon the suggestion of his wife, and has been working on it for six years. He expects that the project will be completed within 24 more years. He has finished 300 paintings and expects to do up to 3,000. He sees the work as a journey which has illuminated an evolving faith, BBC News said.
Both artists have approached their work differently. Gaudet’s mural is powerful and straightforward in style, while Turner’s is more introspective and tends to be more surprising.
Gaudet’s 80-foot long by eight-foot high mural in the Christian Education hallway begins with a scene of Mary and Joseph en route to Bethlehem. The succeeding panel shows the Holy Family with the three kings and the shepherds, The Record Delta said.
The succeeding scenes show Jesus being baptized, then tempted, the disciples and various parables and miracles of Jesus. Then follows Jesus’ death and resurrection, and has a call for Christians to fulfill the Great Commission, The Record Delta reported.
The church suggested that Gaudet incorporate herself into the mural, so she put herself in the scene of the Great Commission. This, for Gaudet, is her contribution to spreading the gospel. She did the job charging only the cost of paint, as for her, it was a journey of faith and witness, The Record Delta said.
A book that is
For Turner, the Brit, the Bible is more than an ordinary book. He told BBC News, “I don’t view the Bible as a book that was, I view it as a book that is.” Neither is he doing the work chronologically. Presently he is working on the New Testament book of Luke. Next, it might be something from 1 Kings.
Turner told BBC News, “I’m not doing the Bible start to finish. It can’t be done A to Z, that would drive you crazy. It would become too boring.” Instead, he goes with his mood. “I’ve done a lot of paintings from 1 Kings. It’s such a deep book you can’t help taking on board some of its flavor, feeling depressed, etc. My wife always knows when I’ve been in it.”
Turner also enjoys challenges with some books like Leviticus, which is replete with legal counsel, and Psalms, which is more difficult to do visually. He told BBC News, “You could easily just paint the juicy bits, for example the story of Adam and Eve, or Jesus walking on water. But the enjoyment is trying to find an image that, for me, sums up the event; for example the description of the Seven Seals in Revelation.”
Examples of Turner’s unique view is his interpretation of the Bible story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof. Turner’s painting shows the roof being repaired afterwards, BBC News said.
Turner told BBC News, “I am looking at something that’s a little bit behind the scene rather than in front.” Another example is that of three women who appear to be gossips and who are setting the table of the Last Supper.
Tool to minister, tool to gain interest
Both Gaudet and Turner enjoy the fact that their works are being made useful. For Gaudet, there is pleasure in learning that the mural has been used as a tool to minister and to teach children during Sunday school. It has also been used as a focal point for meditation and prayer, The Record Delta said.
Gaudet told The Record Delta that the entire process of doing the mural was spiritually enriching. “I was constantly blessed. I really want to thank the members of the church.”
Turner, on the other hand, was surprised to learn that his works, which he displays in his gallery in Exeter’s Queen Street, have made people who find the Bible dull “quite enthusiastic about biblical narrative,” he told BBC News.
Several schools have also expressed interest in accessing the paintings for religious education. Exeter University is looking into funding so that a research project can be done based on his project, BBC News said.
Some of the paintings were sold privately, but Turner hopes to have a complete collection of the finished project, which he told BBC News would likely occur when he’s reached his 80s.
Turner says doing the project has illuminated his faith. He told BBC News, “The depth of the writing in the Bible has enriched my world and has enabled me to put into images something that just pours out. It has invigorated my faith and enlivened my belief. When you’re painting, you’re reflecting. It’s focusing your mind on that event.”