Delaware City Vineyard takes seriously the words of God recorded on the earliest pages of the creation story, "Let us make mankind in our image, after our likeness." There are many ways in which that statement can be understood. One primary way has always been that, as image bearers, mankind is to be creative. We are makers, builder, creators - of culture. Culture is defined as the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviors shared by a group of people. Culture is expressed using various means of storytelling - music, fashion, visual arts, dance, etc. Gallery015 is a dedicated space for those storytellers.
Voices in the Wilderness (Dec 2019 - Feb 2020) comes to Gallery015 on loan from collector, John Kohan. Kohan writes, "Sacred art has been pushed to the margins of contemporary culture. You may parody, mythologize, or psychoanalyze religion, but it seems only a few eccentric artists take it seriously anymore. Modern Art has taught us to see paintings as panels covered with color. There is no need to search for meaning. We have all but forgotten that for most of the course of Western Civilization, art was viewed with a different kind of eye. It expressed universally-shared truths, especially, the narratives and teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition." This exhibition traces the prophetic voice of the Judeo-Christian tradition from well-known biblical narratives to contemporary prophetic figures.
To see more and John Kohan's collection and and hear more of his sacred journey click HERE.
Like rumblings registered on a seismograph, the contrasting peaks and troughs in this abstract image convey the earth-rending power of the “voice of one crying in the wilderness,” demanding nothing less than a geological upheaval of the planet to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord:
Click for Isaiah 40:4
A onetime theology student, David Wojkowicz is an amateur photographer living in Prague who runs a Christian audio library for the visually challenged. His work with abstract black-and-white photos led him to design a graphic vector software program for creating “painted” prints illustrating biblical texts that combine as many as seven separate images.
The greatest prophet of the Hebrew Scriptures, Moses was born into slavery in Egypt and received a call from God to free the Children of Israel from their bondage to the Pharaohs and lead them through the wilderness to their historic homeland in the great Exodus, one of the foundational stories of the Bible. In this scene copying flat, multi-leveled Egyptian wall paintings, Moses and his brother, Aaron, confront Pharaoh with the divine demand to “let my people go.” To prove the power of Yahweh over the deities of Egypt, Aaron turns his rod into a serpent.
Click for Exodus 7-9
Born in Poland, Shlomo Katz moved with his family to a kibbutz in Palestine when he was eight years old. He developed an original style of oil painting on gilded metal, influenced by medieval manuscript illuminations and oriental miniatures. Katz adapted this technique to make serigraphs with gold metallic ink like this silk screen print of Moses before Pharaoh from his 1982 Passover Portfolio.
The story of Deborah the Prophet in Judges 4-5 proves God to be an equal opportunity employer. The tiny Hebrew words forming this image of Deborah, sitting under the palm tree where she prophesied and passed judgment, tell how she summoned Barak, leader of the Israelite army, and delivered the divine command to liberate the tribes of Israel from their Canaanite oppressors. When Barak was reluctant to fight unless Deborah joined him in battle, she told him the victory would bring him no glory but come about through “the hand of a woman.” The commander of the Canaanite forces was, indeed, slain by a woman, who drove a peg through his temple, while he slept in her tent in flight from the Israelites.
Click for Judges 4-5
A graduate of Hebrew Union College, Rae Antonoff specializes in micrography, a form of text art dating from the 9th century, where miniature Hebrew letters, words, and scripture passages are used to create images that illustrate their meaning. This print of Deborah comes from her series, Women of the Bible.
Elijah is second to Moses among the Jewish prophets, appearing beside him at the Transfiguration of Christ. Denounced by King Ahab as that “troublemaker of Israel,” Elijah triumphed over the priests of the Canaanite God Baal in a bloody competition to bring the nation back to faith in Yahweh, recorded in I Kings 18. Both prophet and miracle-worker, he ended a drought, kept a poor widow’s supply of oil and flour from running out, and restored her dead son to life. As depicted in this mixed media painting, Elijah was taken up into heaven in a fiery, horse-drawn chariot, passing his mantel on to his successor, Elisha.
Click for 2 Kings 2:1-11
A self-taught artist from Savannah, Georgia, Rudolph Valentino Bostic uses acrylic and enamel sample pot paints and touches of glitter to create vibrantly colored, visionary depictions of Bible stories on recycled cardboard panels.
The Jewish prophets had a divine mandate not only to seek the repentance of individuals but to call cities and nations to account for what theologians now call structural or systemic injustice. Jeremiah the Weeping Prophet had the burdensome mission of announcing the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians because its people had abandoned faith in Yahweh. In this illustration for the opening passage of the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, the Prophet Isaiah has divinely-delivered words of consolation for the city about the coming of a righteous and just ruler of the royal lineage of David.
Click for Isaiah 11:1-5
No modern artist is so well known and admired for celebrating his Jewish heritage as Marc Chagall. The son of Hasidic Jews in Tsarist Russia, he left his village in what is now Belarus to study art, ultimately making his way to Paris in 1910, where he was strongly influenced by early modernist movements. Chagall’s childhood memories of life in an Eastern European shtetl and his Hebrew school education in the scriptures were a rich source of inspiration all his life, reshaped into whimsical images in an expressionist style. This is a photogravure of one of a suite of 105 etchings Chagall created on biblical themes and texts.
Biblical prophecies can take unusual forms. Jeremiah engaged in street theater, wearing a wooden yoke around his neck to signal the bondage awaiting the people of Jerusalem. Hosea married Gomer “the harlot” to demonstrate God’s fidelity to an unfaithful people. Ezekiel was given a ghoulish vision that turned miraculously hope-filled, when he was taken by the Spirit of the Lord into a valley heaped with dry bones and commanded to bring them back to life:
Click for Ezekiel 37: 4-6
This painted collage illustrates the moment when Ezekiel summons the Breath of God to turn the dry bones into living beings as a symbol of the restoration of the Jewish people, held captive in Babylon. The depiction of the coming of the Spirit in wind and fire links the event to Pentecost.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Cody F. Miller studied at the Columbus College of Art and Design and is currently a resident artist at the city’s Goodwill Art Studio and Gallery. Miller works with biblical themes, building up his compositions with patterns clipped from magazines outlined in paint to create a stained glass effect. Miller sees his pieces as studies in hope, “not necessarily in a bright way but in a way that shows the quiet fingerprint of God saying, ‘I was here all along.’” He created this image of Ezekiel especially for the art exhibit.
The story of Daniel saved from the lions’ den is such a Sunday school favorite we tend to overlook its far from simple message about dealing with the powers that be. The prophet was one of a handful of men from the Jewish nobility in Babylonian captivity, groomed for service in the royal court, where his gift for interpreting the dreams of King Nebuchadnezzar ensured his rapid advancement. Daniel resisted complete assimilation into a culture alien to his forebears. He got away with turning down food and wine from the king’s table in observance of Jewish dietary laws but when a change of regime came with a decree that only King Darius the Mede was worthy of worship, Daniel continued his daily prayers to Yahweh in an act of civil disobedience leading to his night spent with the lions. As Jesus would later formulate the moral of the story in his own teachings on the theme of what believers owe to the civil authorities: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”
Click for Daniel 6
Like many preacher’s kids, Robert Hodgell believed he had heard enough sermons as a boy at his father’s Methodist church in Kansas to last him a lifetime. Although he viewed institutional religion with a critical eye, he often turned to the biblical stories he knew from childhood to create paintings, drawings, and prints unique in American sacred art. They are sometimes anguished and ironic but always refreshingly original. As we see in this delightful linocut, one divinely muzzled predator is clearly suffering from wounded pride.
The conflict between prophets and priests/kings is a common theme in religious history. No one wants to hear bad news or be told to change the way they live by busybody prophets, especially if the listeners have a vested interest in preserving the status quo. A shepherd and fig farmer from Judah, Amos traveled north to the peaceful and prosperous kingdom of Israel to deliver a message of divine judgment against its people because “they trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed (Amos 2:7, NIV)” Warning King Jeroboam that Amos was raising a conspiracy against him, Amaziah the priest of Bethel expels the prophet in this engraving of their classic confrontation:
Click for Amos 7:12-13
The son of a third-generation cantor in the largest synagogue in Galicia (now southeastern Poland), Benzion Weinman emigrated to the U.S. in 1920 and gained recognition in the New York Jewish community as a gifted writer in Hebrew. As racial hatred against the Jews of Europe mounted in the 1930s, Weinman found he could no longer write and turned to the visual arts to regain his creative voice. Shortening his name to Ben-Zion he evolved an expressionistic style of art-making, peopling his works with images of biblical characters he knew well from his reading of sacred texts in the Hebrew school of his childhood. This scene based on a passage in Amos comes from a 1952 portfolio of etchings, The Prophets.
Jonah does not conform to our typical image of a biblical prophet. In fact, he does just about everything possible to sabotage his divine mission of bringing the enemies of the Jewish people in Nineveh to repentance. He boards a ship heading in the opposite direction until a violent storm at sea and three days spent in the belly of a large fish bring about a change of heart. Safely vomited ashore, Jonah delivers a divine warning of impending doom to the Ninevites and is shocked when they take him seriously and call a national day of fasting for the king on down to their cattle. Jonah builds himself a shady shack on the outskirts of town and rants at God for being too merciful. God has to wither Jonah’s sheltering plant to teach the hot-headed prophet a lesson about putting things in true perspective. The story ends with one of the most curious expressions of divine mercy in the Bible:
Click for Jonah 4: 10-11
A Sephardic Jew from Morocco, Egbi was sent to live in a kibbutz in Israel at the age of 12 in a youth immigration program and became the community’s artist-in-residence. He studied at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and New York’s Pratt Graphic Art Center, settling in the U.S. in the early 1970s. Ebgi is known for his detailed prints in a storybook style celebrating Jewish history and traditions.
In the seventh chapter of Luke, Jesus paid the ultimate tribute to John the Baptist: “Among those born of women no one is greater than John.” Describing the Baptist as “more than a prophet,” Christ pointed to his role as the messenger who was to come ahead of him to prepare the way for his Messianic mission. When John the Baptist first appeared out of the wilderness dressed in camel skins, eating a diet of insects and wild honey, and began preaching repentance in a symbolic cleansing with water, the astonished Jews of First Century Palestine believed him to be Elijah. John the Baptist denied that identification, but he can certainly be considered as the last in the long line of Jewish prophets found in the Bible, who bridges the Old and the New Testaments. John recognized his own ministory would decrease with the coming of Christ. After praising the Baptist, Jesus went on to say that “the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
Lyuba Yatskiv is one of the leading representatives of a new school of Ukrainian Greek Catholic iconography based in the city of Lviv in West Ukraine. While respecting the traditions of this conservative sacred art form, she experiments with different mediums and color palettes, offering contemporary variations on time honored themes. Yatskiv follows Eastern Orthodox practice in depicting John the Baptist with wings, since, like the angels, he was a messenger of God. John holds his head on a platter in emblem of his martyrdom at the hands of King Herod Antipas. The Ukrainian text on his scroll reads: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.”
Born in Northeast England to a wealthy family of merchants, William Wilberforce (1759-1833) belonged to a circle of Evangelical Anglicans, popularly known as “The Clapham Saints,” who advocated prison reform, education for women, child labor laws, animal welfare, and an end to slavery. For twenty years, Wilberforce pressed for legislation in the British parliament banning the slave trade, finally winning a majority in 1807. A few days before his death in 1833, British law-makers voted to abolish slavery altogether. Wilberforce was a good friend of John Newton, the converted slave ship captain who wrote the hymn, Amazing Grace.
A Welsh computer artist with the moniker, Pop Culture King, created this new media image of Wilberforce in the style of American Graphic Designer Shepard Fairey’s famous Barack Obama “Hope” poster from the 2008 U.S. presidential election campaign. The portrait of the British reformer is taken from an early 19th century engraving.
Click to view the trailer of Amazing Grace
Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) is the standard for judging modern-day prophets. His campaign of non-violent resistance to British colonial rule in India has served as a model for popular protest movements around the globe from the Civil Rights marches in America and the Greenham Common women’s peace camps in Great Britain to the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia and anti-apartheid “stay at home” strikes in South Africa. Trained in law in London, Gandhi experienced racial discrimination as an Asian living in South Africa and became an ardent human rights advocate. He returned to India to lead his homeland’s independence movement and shed his Western trappings to embrace the life of a poor ascetic, earning himself the epithet of “The Great Soul in Beggar’s Garb.” Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence owed much to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, and he once told a missionary friend that Western Christians ought to start practicing what they preached if they wanted their faith to take root in India. Gandhi’s dream of a single, multi-cultural nation collapsed with the partition of the subcontinent into separate Muslim and Hindu states, following independence in 1947. He was assassinated the following year by a fanatical Hindu nationalist.
This embroidered tribute to Gandhiji (a respectful variation of his name) was made by an unknown seamstress from the East Indian state of Bihar in a needlework style typical of the region, where simple decorative motifs are stitched onto rough woven or recycled scraps of cloth. It shows Gandhi at his spinning wheel, a folk craft he learned to encourage Indians to boycott textile imports from their British overlords and become self-sufficient. The purple elephant is most likely a depiction of Ganesha, the beloved Hindu god of wisdom and prosperity.
German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was not someone you would have expected to become involved in one of the most notorious political conspiracies of the 20th century. Raised in a close-knit, well-to-do family in Berlin, he showed early promise as a musician and surprised his secular-minded parents with his decision to enter the church. Bonhoeffer’s gift for reinterpreting the teachings of Christ for the modern world brought him international recognition, especially after the 1937 publication of his now classic theological treatise, The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer could have escaped the horrors of World War II on the faculty of New York City’s Union Theological Seminary but chose to return to Germany to rejoin the breakaway Confessing Church he had helped to found in opposition to the Nazi regime. After struggling with the issue of whether conventional moral norms were applicable in a time of unrestrained immorality, Bonhoeffer played a supporting role in the abortive plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler on July 20, 1944. He was imprisoned and executed in April 1945 in the closing weeks of the war.
Tyrus Clutter grew up in a conservative Protestant faith community where words took primacy over images. The Florida-based college art professor now explores ways of turning text into art. Clutter selected a page from the Political Treatise of 17th Century Dutch Philosopher Baruch Spinoza on the theme,“The Right of Supreme Authorities,”as the support for this portrait of a haloed Bonhoeffer from his series, Saints, Sinners, Martyrs, & Misfits.
Click to see books by and about Dietrich Bonhoeffer
One of the greatest Roman Catholic lay leaders of the 20th century, Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was living the bohemian life of a radical, left-wing journalist, when she found faith in 1927. Her encounter with the French “vagabond” theologian, Peter Maurin, five years later put her quest for social justice on a firm religious footing. They founded the Catholic Worker Movement, feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless in a Manhattan tenement “House of Hospitality,” the first of over 240 such communities now providing social services around the globe. Arrested at the age of 20 at a suffragist rally, Day saw the inside of a prison call many more times for acts of civil disobedience in support of social causes like the United Farm Worker movement of fellow Catholic Activist Cesar Chavez and in protest against nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War. Day once described her basic credo: “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”
Click for the Biography of Dorothy Day
German-born Graphic Artist Fritz Eichenberg emigrated to the U.S. in 1933 to escape the Nazi regime. He was a good friend of Dorothy Day and longtime contributor of illustrations to The Catholic Worker, the newspaper of her social movement. Eichenberg created detailed engravings on blocks made from cross sections of hardwood. This portrait of Day incorporates one of his most famous prints of Christ huddled under a blanket in a breadline.
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, looking out at a crowd of some 250,000 civil rights supporters who had come together for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and shared his vision of a compassionate, interracial America:
“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’’"…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Click here to listen to MLK's speech - I Have A Dream!
King only lived to take the first steps in realizing that dream, attending the White House signing one year later of landmark civil rights legislation. Over fifty years have passed since King fell victim to a hate-killing, and Americans still struggle with the legacy of slavery and racial intolerance he gave his life to overcome.
A self-taught artist from Jackson, Mississippi, Carl Dixon creates mixed-media, sculpted wood panel paintings, illustrating the great narratives of the Bible, significant moments from the African American experience, and his life story and religious faith. This piece was inspired by a famous photograph of King speaking at the Lincoln Memorial. Some civil rights activists by the microphones have on the iconic white cap worn by Mahatma Gandhi to show their support for his philosophy of non-violent resistance.
Rachel Carson (1907-1964) imagined a town in the American heartland without birdsong and buzzing bees, where children fell ill and apple trees failed to bloom in the sobering introduction to Silent Spring, her landmark 1962 book about the toxic effects of synthetic pesticides on the environment. At a time when post-war America was eagerly employing poisonous products to wipe out the pesky bits of nature, Carson was dismissed as just another of those “emotional women in garden clubs” and even vilified as a Communist for daring to blow the whistle on the chemical industry. Her tireless one woman crusade ultimately led to the banning of DDT and helped launch the global environmental movement.
Rachel Keeney, a graphic designer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, created this appropriately green-toned portrait of Carson for use on posters and t-shirts at the nationwide March for Science in April 2017 to protest government misuse of scientific data and cuts in research funding
Click here for the trailer for Silent Spring
In challenging the Soviet Communist regime, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) compared himself to the stubborn calf in a Russian proverb that tries to butt down an oak tree. He was arrested at the front in World War II for criticizing Dictator Joseph Stalin in a letter to a friend and sentenced to eight years in labor camps in the horrific Gulag Archipelago, a struggle to survive detailed in his novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev authorized publication of the book in 1962 in his campaign to discredit Stalin, and the former labor camp inmate became an international celebrity, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970. Solzhenitsyn’s clandestine work on a history of the Soviet prison camps led to his expulsion from the USSR in 1974 and a period of exile in Vermont, when he proved an equally outspoken critic of Western democracies. Solzhenitsyn lived to see the oak topple and returned to Russia in 1994.
Clay Gaspard is a “hobby artist” from Dallas, Texas, who makes drawings and prints of historical figures. This portrait is taken from a photo of Solzhenitsyn in prison uniform. His identification code, SHCH 262, is just visible on the cap.
Click HERE for a collection of interviews with Solzhenitsyn, biographies of his life, and film adaptations of his most famous works.
The killing of Oscar Romero on March 24, 1980 was a chilling replay of the infamous 12th century martyrdom of Archbishop Thomas Becket, slain by four henchmen of King Henry II during evening prayer in Canterbury Cathedral. Like the medieval “meddlesome priest” Becket, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador set himself on a collision course with El Salvador’s right-wing military junta, issuing calls in weekly radio sermons for social justice, economic equality, and an end to a campaign of terror that was pushing the country towards civil war. Romero had just finished preaching at the altar of a hospital chapel, when an unknown assassin gunned him down. He was declared a saint in October 2018.
Marie Romero Cash comes from a family of Hispanic folk artists in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who have kept alive a special form of sacred art-making dating back to the Spanish colonial period. She is the best known woman “saint-maker,” chosen in 1997 to paint the Stations of the Cross panels in Santa Fe’s St. Francis Basilica. Cash created this image of St. Oscar Romero with Christ and the Virgin Mary especially for this exhibition in the saint-making style of the American Southwest.
Click here to view the trailer for Romero
The Republic of South Africa set an example for the world in confronting the horrific aftermath of apartheid with neither violence nor vengeance but public repentance when it established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996. No better person could have been selected to oversee these hearings bringing together the victims and perpetrators of human rights abuses to establish the truth about the past than Desmond Tutu (b. 1931), the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, awarded the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his “non-violent struggle” to end the racial partition of his homeland. Tutu bases his belief in “restorative” justice on the African concept of Ubuntu, the idea that people can only come to know their true worth by living in community with others. As the now retired Archbishop explains: “I am a human being because I belong, I participate, I share.”
A professional artist trained at South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal, Beverly Smith Martin runs the By Believing One Sees art school in the suburbs of Durban. She tries to convey the personalities of the subjects of her portraits through the expressive use of color, vividly capturing the energy and good humor of this joyous man of God with contrasting shades of purple and yellow.
Click here to see the trailer for The Forgiven
In the turbulent years of the 1960s, American recording artists from Bob Dylan to Joan Baez sang songs of social significance about the changing times. The popular folk rock duo of Simon & Garfunkel told us where to look for truth when we no longer trusted traditional political, social, and religious institutions:
The words of the prophets are
written on the subway walls
and tenement halls
and whispered in the sound of silence
Click to listen to Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel
Andrea Costa paints on maps thickened with layers of varnish. A guide to the New York City subway brought to mind the lyrics of the 1965 Simon & Garfunkel megahit, The Sound of Silence. The Milan-based artist superimposed images of the two musicians from the 1966 album cover with this title track onto a transit map.
Jesus ends his parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge in the eighteenth chapter of Luke with a plaintive question about what might await him on his return to establish his kingdom: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Not according to this cartoon—we’ll be too preoccupied with the social media to even notice the end of the world!
Dan Piraro is a stand-up comic, author, and commercial artist from Kansas City, Missouri, best known for his syndicated, single-panel Bizarro cartoons.
Where are today’s Voices in the Wilderness? Have their prophetic words been drowned out by the high decibel level of our rowdy, rude, and raucous political debate? Messengers from God have never had an easy time of speaking truth to power, whether it be secular or religious, backed by security forces or mob rule. The modern day prophet in this charcoal sketch will just have to get back up on his feet, bandage his wounds, and make a new placard for the next public protest with his much-needed message from Micah 6:8 about what God requires of us: ACT JUSTLY. LOVE MERCY. WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD.
Wayne Forte is a painter and printmaker with a global vision. Born in the Philippines, he studied art in the U.S., France, and Italy, married in Brazil, and settled in Southern California. Forte is committed to bringing art back into churches after centuries of neglect and hostility to images. He is well-schooled in making “message” works as a frequent illustrator of sermon series and created this drawing for display in this exhibition.
Thanks for engaging with the "Voices in the Wilderness" exhibit. This is only a sampling of both biblical and contemporary prophetic voices. Who's missing? We'd love to hear your perspective on influential voices both past and present.
Click HERE to offer your suggestions and perspective.