Meghan Kozal, Senior Anchor Intern- Communications & Design
The second to last 3D foundations critique of the spring 2018 semester was wrapping up and while I should have been engaged in discussing my fellow classmates’ work I was instead sitting there really trying to puzzle out why in all my time of making art, both in high school and now as a visual communication design major, I had never made art that tied back to my faith. Several classmates had made pieces discussing their faith and the challenges that come with it, which kick-started my reflection. In the end I realized that I had always felt as if there were ‘more important’ issues than faith that should be discussed in art such as promoting women’s rights, equal access to education, or greater cultural sensitivity and thus that’s what I latched onto. I saw my faith and ministry as separate from the work I completed in my major and the path I wanted to take in the future in the art field. With all this in mind, I challenged myself to make my final piece related to my faith, while also retaining some of the influence of those other interests.
In ideating how exactly my faith could intersect my artistic creation, I somehow circled back to a documentary I had watched on Islamic Art. I was inspired by a particular line that said in Islam the most important gift from God is His Word and thus text is one of the most prominent art forms in Islamic Art. I made the jump then to considering that for Christians God’s most precious gift is His Son, and thus figures are at the center of Christian imagery. Blending these ideas together, I thought of the beginning of John’s Gospel which synthesizes these two seemingly contradictory ideas into “In the beginning was the Word… and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh”.
Using these lines, parts of John 1:1 and John 1:14, as a starting point, I created three layers of Bible verses written in Arabic calligraphy inspired by the Dome of the Rock and the Hagia Sofia. The verses mentioned from John’s Gospel are the first and second layers of Arabic text in the piece respectively. I explored to find more Biblical texts that discussed the Word and arrived on text from Luke (11:28) and James (1:22) from the New Testament and Deuteronomy (30:14) and Psalms (119:130) from the Old Testament in the final layer, which allowed the piece to also connect with the Jewish faith. In creating this work I wanted to start a dialogue between the different major faith traditions in a way that looked at the similarities or the areas where our theology crossed over versus beginning at how they were different. In striving for this dialogue, I was able to retain my usual desire to tackle tough issues in my artistic creations in a way that prompts conversation among viewers, the artwork, and myself.
While the artwork was made to fulfill the needs of a class project, I wanted to do more with it than simply show it to my fellow classmates. I, therefore, tried entering it into Grand Rapids ArtPrize, one of the most attended art events in the world. ArtPrize is an exhibition that takes over the entire city of Grand Rapids, MI with over 150 venues and over 1,000 artists and is one that I have gone to since I was young with my parents and grandparents. To be exhibited in ArtPrize, a venue has to select your work, and I had the great fortune of being selected by the Monroe Community Church this year. On September 15, 2018, I officially became an ArtPrize artist as I hung my piece on the wall of the church, and I could not be happier. The show will run from September 19-October 7 and on September 30, my piece will also be the inspiration for the sermon at the church’s Sunday service.
What started as a class project with the vague idea of incorporating my faith has now become a piece that will fuel conversation among the hundreds of thousands of visitors to ArtPrize. This has allowed me to begin seeing art and ministry in a whole new light and sparked the desire to continue creating art that is a catalyst for inter-faith dialogue.
For more on my piece and ArtPrize, visit https://www.artprize.org/67346