As we approach the end of summer and all those memorable sunlit vacations, Sacrosanct Gallery is overjoyed with the number of submissions of high-quality entries during a time when most are trying to think about anything other than work. But that’s the thing about art, love, and life, we are submerged (or contained by external forces) whether or not we want to be. The collection of works we’ve gathered for our “Submerged” art exhibition is eclectic as a whole and points to the state of being completely covered or obscured as we make our way through the remainder of 2018.
For this show, Sacrosanct’s curator adopted a view toward the whole being greater than the parts of the sum. At Sacrosanct, we continuously look at emerging trends, commonalities, and disparities in contemporary artworks within themes of the sacred. We often try to draw a common thread in understanding just where the art is headed. For this widely interpreted August theme, doing so proved difficult at best. We believe all of us are also submerged in changing times, amorphous voices, and interpretations that may exist only momentarily. It points to the courage our artists have demonstrated in offering their works, and more so to the value of work that transcends time, such as can be seen with our showcasing of Wayne Urffer’s What Have You Done.
Please join me in congratulating Wayne and more than 20 of his esteemed colleagues (some showing with Sacrosanct for the second or third time), along with the first Canadian to ever be exhibited. Each are unique in their own skillful grappling in staying (and keeping us) afloat: Sherri Silverman; John Robertson; Chris Dale; Claire Jeanine Satin; Thomas Murray; Chas Martin; Linda McCray; Alfred Eaker; Joni Lynn Tomasetti; Jason John; Keith Fields; Vincent Hawley; Bilhenry Walker; Brian Donahue; Robert Eustace; Crystal Turk; Jessica Ruta; Samuel Gillis; George Lorio; R. Scott Anderson; Marlene Burns; and Robyn Ellenbogen.
Wayne Urffer received a BS in Psychology from Messiah College in 1983, and a Master’s in Religion from the Lancaster Theological Seminary in 1989. His career as an educator has included stints in two different Friends Schools and a Mennonite historic organization, all in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood. Since 1997, he has been an Associate Professor in the General Education Department at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. Urffer currently teaches introductory courses in Sociology and Ethics, as well as an upper level elective course in Comparative Religions. In addition to teaching, he also studies art history and design with several very talented colleagues at the Art Institute. Urffer’s work in mixed media assemblage and assembled sculpture derives from found or salvaged materials which he believes are “the dross of an individualistic, market-driven culture that promotes the spirit-killing values of over-consumption and disposability.”
Chris Dale’s oeuvre is titled, ‘In The Shadow Of Metaphor’. The metaphor is how images are understood. They are malleable, therefore meaning is easily manipulated. Meaning changes but this differs from where love is what you feel for a new car or anger is when your sports team loses the game. This metaphorical confusion has spilled over to art. Dale’s work attempts to take images out of the momentary of assigned meaning. To re-focus on the moment before consciousness, where the viewer creates for themselves something new.
Regina Agnello is Robertson’s interpretation of the Parable of the Lost Sheep contained in the Gospel of Luke 15:4-6
The piece is basically a search for a single, lost sheep. The color red takes the viewer through the journey. The search begins with a population density graph of the world, focusing in on the United States. A population density map of the United States then centers the viewer to the state of Florida. A highway map and census data then point toward the city of Key West. A city tourist map leads to the specific pier upon which sits the “lost sheep,” a lone woman sitting on a pier.
Underneath the photo is a piece of from an old hymnal called “I Love Thee” from an anonymous songwriter, published in 1805, revealing the reason for the search, “I love thee, I love thee, I love thee.” A name plate towards the bottom of the piece bears her name torn from a phone book, “Regina Agnello”. Translated, “Queen of the Lambs”. On the photo is painted her crown. She represents us. Robertson is a pediatric pulmonologist practicing in Houston, Texas.
Sherri Silverman is mainly self-taught as a studio artist and has a PhD in Creativity, the Arts, and the Sacred & Application of Asian Concepts. In 1998, Silverman’s work was presented to the New Mexico Capitol Art Collection board by a board member and the curator. Out of thirteen potential artists, Sherri’s work was accepted by a unanimous vote of the board. The curator then pointed to the first of five pieces she had selected for possible inclusion, and again all the hands went up. Matthew #15 was installed in a silver-leaf frame with a silk mat and placed on permanent display outside the Senate chambers, where it is hopefully enlightening New Mexico legislators.
When it comes to recognizable imagery, flowers and plants seem to prevail. Their ideograms are Silverman’s favorite Chinese calligraphy exercises. In his book Hindu Iconography, sculptor/architect Ganapati Sthapati advocates not copying directly but capturing “their intangible qualities and significance…the essence of the forms rather than direct copies of their natural shapes…observed, understood, well-savored, and the response of the artist.” How very Taoist!
Vincent Hawley is a Christian artist based in New York City who primarily works in metal creating sculptures. He is classically trained as a jeweler and silversmith which is referenced to create work. Hawley has done a number of projects for churches such as sacred vessels, pectoral crosses, processional pieces, and contemporary sculptural pieces. Wave Form VI is an organic shape, hand formed from copper. It is sealed to keep the color and is a representation of a wave rolling in the ocean and is secured to a marble base. Hawley received his BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, he went on to graduate from the Gemological Institute of America in Italy as well as apprenticing in Florence, Italy. This work’s predecessor, Wave Form V, won the Jurors’ Choice, “Sculpture 2018” at New Hope Arts in New Hope, Pennsylvania.
From the swamps she arose with trinkets of wonder. Once a empty swamp dweller now the queen of swamps. Representing survival at its best, what one person thinks is trash can be another’s treasure. We create the world that we choose to live in. We ourselves decide what is worthy of ordainment. Crystal Turk works in a studio and gallery of the bizarre. It serves as a makeshift portal from the outside world, transporting one into a world of medical and macabre items such as taxidermy, antique electrical devices, apothecary, embalming bottles, and a myriad of human and animal bones and skulls.
Turk’s schooling comes from The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Today she still uses only skulls that are found by herself or friends. Finding the skull gives more meaning to the piece and helps Turk create a new life for it. It wasn’t until a trip to Italy that she was inspired by a new (or rather antique) way to preserve and properly present each skull for display.
Jason John’s figures with inscrutable expressions sometimes balance precarious cardboard headpieces and hold awkward poses as fruit, flowers, and abstract objects swirl around them. The paintings reveal John’s masterful realist technique broken by abstract fissures of dripping paint. The situations are illogical.
John, an assistant professor of painting at the University of North Florida, describes his work as portraits of people in transition, with no relationship to allegory or narrative. Where his subjects have been or where they are going, he doesn’t know. When discussing his work, John often focuses on three central themes-identity, space and composition. Objects that could be real or projections of the subjects’ thoughts drift through the paintings, hinting at the figures’ identities and creating depictions of space.
John holds a BFA in Painting from Kutztown University and an MFA in Painting and Drawing from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He also studied at The Waichulis Studio (now called Ani Art Academies) in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. In 2012, John was inducted into the Museum of Realist Art in Boston, Massachusetts. (Biography credit to MOCA Jacksonville.) In 2017, John’s work Don’t Worry Richter was prominently featured in the Interfaith Journal on Religion, Art, and Architecture: Faith & Form.
Claire Satin’s piece explores visual submersions, cleansing, releasing negatives, revealing the good, beautiful, and spiritual. Satin holds a BA at Sarah Lawrence College and a MFA in Sculpture from Pratt Institute. Satin taught art for several years at high schools in New York City before moving to Florida. In the late 70s, while teaching in the Art Department at Broward Community College (now Broward College), she met the composer John Cage. She became a follower of Cage’s theories and his concepts of indeterminacy. In subsequent years, Satin’s work has been largely devoted to the concept of chance and indeterminacy, allowing this idea to take precedence over other pursuits of art-making in book works and related objects. To date, she has created over 100 book works.
Thomas Murray holds a BS in Fine Art at the University of Florida and a MFA in Painting and Drawing at the University of New Mexico. He is a full time lecturer at the University of Texas with a long history of professorial responsibilities in the arts at various educational institutions. He writes that painting, “……is the vehicle of choice for much of my work. What others might see as a hindrance; the vast history of Painting, I see as freedom and opportunity in a contemporary theatre ripe with promise and possibility. Object making is the breath, the sustained exhale. My process is a series of raveling and unraveling. Over the course of several paintings I allow the world to come in, to permeate my awareness. The breath in is invariably followed by another search.”
When painting, Joni Lynn Tomasetti’s goal is to create vibrant and emotionally charged images by juxtaposing bold colorful shapes. Using various mediums, watercolor, pastel or oils, she converses in colors, textures, and shapes as language of the visual image. Whether landscapes, architectural, figurative, or still life, she hopes to engage the viewer by inspiring a thoughtful dialogue that captures memories and reminiscences of consciousness. Tomasetti considers the work expressionistic, bringing dimensions of abstract and realism into one unparalleled and synergistic work of art. Here, the antonym for submerge is emerge, the juxtaposition is in the emerging and submerging shapes, some fluid and dripping others thick impasto. New and glorious vignettes will show themselves each time you look at this piece.
Chas Martin has previously exhibited with Sacrosanct Gallery with sculptures and watercolors. This gallerist also recently wrote a review on Martin’s rising profile and success, attributed to work, work, and yet more work. Martin is a forward-thinking sculptor who is embracing non-traditional and non-mainstream materials to effect the intangibly ethereal. He writes, “Submerged might mean under water. It might mean in thought, in light, in love, in dreams. I am constantly aware of my other spirit. It is not bound by gravity, the past, or the future. It simply exists in timeless space, submerged in wonder.”
Marlene Burns recently completed this new work which describes submerging and burying our sins in a body of water. Traditionally, on Rosh Hashanah, Jewish people participate in an ancient ritual of Tashlich, where we cast off our sins into a body of water. It is the tangible act of shaking off our transgressions. Water is a universal symbol for purification. At this time of the New Year, we are cleansing our hearts and minds, bodies and souls, as we go through the process of Teshuvah. Water is also a symbol of the creation of the world and of all life. Near springs of water, Kings of Israel were crowned. The prophets Ezekiel and Daniel received revelation near a body of water as well.
In this visual expression, a strong, black line moves through the water to represent the casting off. It is intertwined with fringe to allude to the tzitzit of a tallit katan that are shaken during the ritual. In this painting, the Hebrew word Tashlich is shown in the upper right corner. Each letter is part of an incomplete circle. A fish is hidden in the word to reference using a body of water with fish. A complete circle rests at the bottom to exemplify not only the completion of this ritual but, its integral role in the completion of our process of repentance during the High Holy Days.
“He will take us back in love; He will cover up our iniquities. You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
Black Madonna of Tindari is from Alfred Eaker’s series, A Sea of Rosaries. Eaker attended the John Herron School of Art and majored in Fine Arts. He holds a Bachelors of Theology from St. Mary of the Woods and a Masters of Theological Studies in the Arts from Christian Theological Seminary. In addition to painting, he is a performance artist with two characters: Brother Cobweb and BlueMahler, one stemming from the school of trench theology and the latter in existential theology. Much of Eaker’s art focuses on the sacred feminine and Marian symbology. He is a Catholic who has shown in galleries since the ’80s. This image depicts the metaphoric scenery of the Madonna from the Apocalypse.
Jessica Ruta is an intuitive artista who uses wood as her canvas. A burning tool and some acrylics serve to create spiritually based pieces. The pieces are a reflection of Ruta’s current awakening. The artist feels as though the art is divinely guided. Although the works can be extremely IN YOUR FACE with a passion for femininity and sexuality, nature also plays a strong influential role and Ruta loves doing landscape scenes as well. With Wave of Love, we are viewing Twin Flames immersed in the power of love. Ruta writes, “From my heart, thru my hands..art that makes you feel.”
Sam Gillis has studied in some of the finest art programs including Columbia College Chicago and The Atelier Alternative. Gillis is a prolific artist who’s been featured in museums and exhibitions including the National Museum of Mexican Art and John G. Shedd Aquarium. He is engaged with both his local and global community and as such, is a frequent donor to non-profit organizations.
The environment and the creatures with their beauty have been on this planet longer than humans. They have evolved in unique ways to deal with us and other creatures who share the same environment. Wanting to survive, some animals including sea life use beauty to ward off predators that would harm them. As an artist, capturing the beauty of life is dear to the artist’s heart as he seeks to bring awareness to the plight of various species by documenting them in a unique creative process to tell their story.
Brian Donahue does a lot of liturgical work for churches around the country, mostly traditional and representational, statuary, and liturgical furnishings. His gallery work is more spiritual rather than religious. He relies heavily on semiotics, using items of nature to express the ethereal. Early in his art career, Donahue worked as a scientific illustrator in the archaeology academia in Arizona, Hawaii, and California. During excavations he began to notice similarities in spiritual art and semiotics of the early indigenous peoples. This captured his interest and he began to study these two areas more in-depth.
In the meantime, Brian started to receive commissions for liturgical work. With an increasing demand for his sculptures, Donahue began an independent study program to better understand the complexities of the liturgical art genre and Semiotics. He took courses in Liturgical Art and Architecture from the University of St Mary of the Lakes in Illinois and he studied Religious Semiotics and Celtic Christianity from various sources.
In several locations in fresh and salt water bodies, there are areas completely devoid of life. Some are permanent, others are periodic. This occurrence of the loss of oxygen in the water is becoming more common and appears across the planet. The source is thought to be a result of agricultural runoff and industrial pollution.
George Lorio uses a narrative of social engagement to generate discussion. His images subtly arouse concern with visual prods into issues related to class, immigration, gun control, and ecology. A childhood in New Orleans framed Lorio’s vision of life. It was and continues to be a place of extremes: beauty and decay, religion and ritual, custom and iconoclasm. From that experience, he acquired an excitement for visual matters: colors, forms and even artifacts. Having since lived on the border of Mexico for ten years has altered Lorio’s view of contemporary culture and our collective social responsibility. As a result, the expression of the imagery has become more topical. Lorio holds a BA in Arts Education from the University of South Florida and a MFA.
R. Scott Anderson’s image is from his “Below” series which grew from an overall concept about relationship of human beings to land, air, and water. Previous series featured humans at the interface of air and water. The “Below” series is about their full submersion in water, such as swimming pools or the ocean. He hopes they portray our ancient desires for flight or perhaps, the fulfillment of our most weightlessly surreal dreams.
Anderson’s approach to photographing female models is an intriguing one. He feels the female form is a compelling subject. The intent when creating art with women is to speak to that place in us where we understand her to be beautiful and desirable, yet not to have it be ‘personally’ about her. Rarely does Anderson have his art subjects look into the lens. The shots are about the beauty that existed in that moment, not about who was beautiful in that moment. Anderson would hope that he captures the essence of ‘every woman’ rather than just ‘one particular’ woman.
Robert Eustace brings us to his experimental series of photographs. Representative of an overall series of 15 related images, this piece conveys a ‘short story’ on the falling from heaven and into a submerged state under the water. This particular series took its impetus from simply taking a stroll in a nearby town and making the pleasant discovery of finding an old rusted, dirt encrusted bicycle sprocket lying in the street. This particular item, was a beautiful answer to prayers as Eustace was searching for that ‘key component’ piece of metal that he could include in his current major art project – a sacred art ‘ikonic mixed-media construction’, that involves an interaction between earth and cosmos. Eustace has found the practice of photography to be particularly liberating and freeing… a method of working that provides a healthy cross-pollination and inspiration to his work in mixed-media.
Linda McCray, MFA, CSD, is a visual artist and spiritual director. Her paintings are in a number of public and private collections. Private collectors and organizations have commissioned McCray to create paintings that speak to their mission. McCray previous was an adjunct art professor for Loyola University Chicago and other institutions. She lectures on contemporary spiritual art and art as mediation.
McCray’s work is well known in the field of the sacred arts. She translates universal spiritual truths into abstract paintings that speak to others, regardless of their traditions.
To form visible signs of invisible grace, abstraction is used to powerfully convey through light, color, and texture—speaking directly to the heart. To capture feelings of the warmth and peace of the Divine Presence, she uses a number of techniques including the old masters’ use of glazes to capture luminosity. McCray integrates found objects that abound with symbolism, such as sand from the River Jordan, ashes and palms. The torn-like edges symbolize that we are a part of something much greater—our collective Creator.
In a reality you cannot imagine unless you are living it, Bilhenry Walker brings us to the social issues of race and violence. Each sculpture has a story behind it involving death and tragedy and all came from Walker’s neighborhood in urban Milwaukee. Walker is focused on the topic of urban hopelessness among an unemployed male population and the grief and fear that pervades a community with every senseless killing. He has taken the point of view of remembering the “throw away kids” who died and reminding the suburban community that those lives were important even though they aren’t remembered anywhere.
Homeboys Flying Dying Tableau is an homage to the specific urban youth in Milwaukee who are dying in stolen car crashes throughout the city. This involves kids as young as 13 who have generally dropped out of school and opted for living in the fast lanes of our cities streets when no other options seem viable. Walker’s neighbor’s son revealed that six of his friends have already died in auto crashes; one died behind Walker’s studio on January 23, 2016. R.I.P. little DeAnthony, you just wanted the big boys to like you.
“It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself.” –Rachel Carson, “The Sea Around Us”
Robyn Ellenbogen writes, “My work is inspired by myriad layers that speak to the complexity of our lives. The sea is a fundamental source of being, rich in emotion and metaphor. To be submerged suggests a powerful state of connection to the source of water…When I was a child, my internal dialogue often centered on loss, absence, the inevitability of dying and a sense of absurdity. Egg tempera paintings are often combined with the use of metalpoint. I rarely work from a sketch or a plan but more often a generalized feeling, thought, or emotion. Making art allows me to grasp the world as a paradoxical break with familiar acceptance.”
Keith Fields is a writer and visual artist living in Texas. He received a Joanne Thaman fellowship for creative writing while attending the University of Texas at Austin. His work has appeared in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review and has been featured by The Bello Collective.
He writes, “As I browse an old anthropology book about Pompeii, I feel the gulf of time between my life and ancient Rome, but also between me and the book’s intended audience (a person of the mid-20th century). I see reprinted a painting of Mount Vesuvius’s eruption, which submerged the city of Pompeii in ash and entombed its residents. This painting wears a history of its own: the way we used to style and frame images to understand natural phenomena. This depiction of a major first century historical event was created in the mid-19th century, and reprinted in 1978 for our observation in 2018. The nesting doll of centuries gestures forward and back. If there is a Fact, it is only that Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.”
Sacrosanct Gallery excels in contemporary sacred art in America. Our monthly art exhibitions are curated for interfaith art exposure. Sacred Art Squad is an arm of the gallery that works to link artists, congregations, and communities in creative placemaking by marrying sacred artworks in public places and sacred spaces. We want to grow your interfaith art journey and to collaboratively define what is and what is not “sacred”. Inquiries to Shauna Lee Lange at 941.875.5190 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.