Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A New Way of Storytelling

By: Stephanie S. Smith, Blog Editor

It is no secret that our American culture is visually-oriented; we gravitate towards graphics, the silver screen, special effects and web design.  Our image-driven culture parades clever comics, print ads, and elaborate scenes before our eyes, sometimes moving us to inspiration and sometimes moving us to consumerism. 

But visual art, which marks our postmodern age, is nothing new.  The Church has been a patron of visual art for centuries, as gloriously displayed in the vaulted ceilings of cathedrals, the precision of a gold-tipped pen in illuminated manuscripts, and the story of Scripture as told through colored glass.

Christianity's rich visual tradition is being carried on today in many ways, one of which I recently discovered is The Saint John's Bible, a beautiful, visual rendition of the Scriptures that takes the ancient illuminated manuscript tradition and applies it in a new way. The Smithsonian Magazine calls it, “One of the extraordinary undertakings of our time.”

An Ancient Scribe at Work
To give you an idea of the depth of this artistic work...

The book is actually seven volumes, completely hand-written with world-class calligraphy and illustration, and took over fifteen years in the making.  The seven volumes all together weigh a total of 165 pounds!

Fellow artists Hilary Brand and Adrienne Chaplin say, "If ever art was made to point beyond itself it is the icon." (Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts; p. 85).  And perhaps this is the beauty of a visual retelling of the Divine Story as well, as its images guide our hearts to see beyond what it represented on the page, ushering us into the presence of God.

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