Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture will host a national traveling art exhibit called “Come to the Table” until October 29. The exhibit is made available through Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA), a non-profit organization founded in 1979 dedicated to exploring and nurturing the relationship between the visual arts and the Christian faith.
Recently, we had a chance to talk with Alexandra Harper about Come to the Table. Harper is Director of Culture Care at Culture Care RDU. Here’s a bit of our conversation.
How would you describe Come to the Table to people who know nothing about art?
“Come to the Table is about hospitality. Specifically, God’s hospitality through visible signs of generosity, grace and welcome through the cup and the bread. Denominations across the spectrum of Christianity have obvious and nuanced theological beliefs about the The Lord’s Table.
“These works offer different perspectives or layers of meaning. But one thing that is central to the Table is the fundamental desire for God’s presence, hospitality and intimacy. The Table is a place of abundance and offers us a sense of place with God and with one another.
“At the Come to the Table exhibit, we have 33 artists — ranging from Albrecht Durer, one of the great Renaissance artists, from whom we have an engraving of the Last Supper, to modernist and contemporary artists. Some of the images are representational or historical; others are metaphorical. Each work offers a unique perspective.
“If you take seriously the idea of looking at the Table as visual signs of hospitality, grace, goodness, truth and beauty, as these artists are inviting us to do, it should prove to be a gift for the visitor, regardless of one’s art background.
“Jean Wetta, an artist whose work is in this exhibition, said ‘The path from the ordinary to the extraordinary is one of grace and art.’ I hope this is the first of many events for Southeastern to prepare leaders and renew Christianity’s historic role of patronage, connection and storytelling through art.”
What works would you highlight in Come to the Table?
“The most notable piece would probably be Durer’s Last Supper, which I mentioned, just because he’s one of the top Renaissance artists.
“We have a sampling of historical pieces and images that often make people feel comfortable, because the image is realistic or natural; they can interpret it easily. But there are contemporary works that ask you to sit with them for a while. Abstract art can open a deeply contemplative experience.
“So I’m not pushing anyone into any particular. In fact, I do gallery work at the North Carolina Museum of Art, and I’ll lead public and private groups. I’ve led private groups for churches to help them have a better experience of ‘God in the galleries.’ People will go in for the great masterpieces, the Renaissance art, but it is the modern and unfamiliar and unconventional pieces that grab their attention. After they sit with a piece for a while and they learn the story, it changes the paradigm for them. It becomes a personal connection to them. It defies their expectation.
“The one thing I would invite anyone who is going to see these works: Yes, please look and study the more classic representational pieces. But also sit with pieces that are a bit more unconventional and a bit more abstract, and contemplate in what way is the artist inviting you to share his or her idea of hospitality. You may very well be surprised.”
Do you have a favorite piece?
“I really love this piece by Sandra Bowden, Elementals. There’s a lot of affection in this personally for me, because I know Sandra as an artist. It’s a very abstract piece, and the elements — how she has these two abstract pieces juxtaposed next to each other, and they’re very basic — that’s personally something I like to sit with.
“I think an artist a lot of people should get to know is Sadao Watanabe. His work is just wonderful Japanese art.”
SEBTS will host Come to the Table until Oct. 29, 2018, with an opening reception on Sept. 24 at 7pm. Learn more about Come to the Table.
- CIVA “Come to the Table” Exhibit: Through October 29, 2018
- Opening Reception: September 24 at 7pm
- Open Gallery: 8am – 5pm (Monday – Thursday) | 8am – 4pm (Friday)
The L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture
2nd Floor of Patterson Hall
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
222 N. Wingate St.
Wake Forest, NC 27587
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Image Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Public Domain)