Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dordt College presents “Beauty Given by Grace”

Sadao Watanabe
Adam and Eve
hand colored kappazuri dyed stencil print on washi paper

The following is from a Dordt College news release:

Dordt College presents “Beauty Given by Grace,” a Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) traveling exhibition of Japanese printmaker Sadao Watanabe. The collection of 50 original stencil prints, calendars, and Christmas cards is now on display in the Dordt College Art Gallery, located in the Campus Center, through October 16. The gallery is open free of charge to the public every day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The Department of Art and Design will host a reception Wednesday, September 17, from 6:45 to 8 p.m., with a program at 7. Refreshments will be provided and all are invited.  Journalist, essayist, and collector Mr. John A. Kohan (The Sacred Art Pilgrim) will be present to discuss the work of Sadao Watanabe.

Watanabe (1913-1996) converted from Buddhism to Christianity at 17 years old. He desired to express his new faith while preserving the traditional Japanese folk art of stencil dying, or katazome. “I have always aspired to portray stories and episodes from the Bible,” said Watanabe. “In this disturbed world, I would like to be able to heed the voice of heaven.”

His work is highly regarded throughout the world and has been displayed at the British Museum, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, and the Vatican Museum. Watanabe’s desire was to create art that could be enjoyed by everyone and displayed in ordinary settings.

Installation view

Installation view

The following is from an interview with David Versluis. Art Gallery Coordinator by Meagan DeGraaf of the Dordt Diamond:

MDG: Why do you think Dordt students should take time to look at this art?

DV: Beauty Given by Grace: The Biblical Prints of Sadao Watanabe is a special CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) traveling exhibition that brings together the striking and vibrantly colorful original prints produced by Japanese printmaker, Sadao Watanabe. A key aspect for viewers, particularly art and design students, is to see this show as the work of a professional artist who took his Christian faith seriously and was able to convincingly convey his faith in his artwork. Watanabe’s faith is apparent by using the genre of biblical themes as inspiration for developing his images. Watanabe’s prints are truly visual celebrations and accessible while enchanting our hearts and enlightening our minds. In addition, Watanabe’s body of work suggests to us a profound hope in the midst of our divided… troubled times. In this way Watanabe is a reformative artist who serves humanity by encouraging the viewer.

MDG: What does this show bring to the campus? (culture-wise)

DV: Watanabe is a twentieth-century example of how his Christian faith played an important role in his artwork. Artist and writer, Makoto Fujimura mentions that Watanabe is a “trans-modern” artist, which means that Watanabe's artwork is a "synthesis of tradition and innovation.”   A Christian artist in Japan is a great rarity and Watanabe’s perseverance as an artist is inspirational. Fujimura also states: “Wanatabe’s prints lead both a familiar and isolated existence, both publicly known and a novelty of sorts, navigating among the world of mingei (folk art), the Bible, and contemporary art.”

MDG: And why are you excited about it?

DV: I have been attracted to Sadao Watanabe’s distinctive style of biblical narratives since first seeing his work as a college student and when this exhibition came together I wanted it for the Dordt College community. The predominance of Watanabe’s rich autumnal colors found in his prints seem fitting as we move into this fall season. It’s the first time I’ve seen this many of his pieces—there’s nothing like seeing the actual work rather than reproductions. We need to thank CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) for supporting this exhibition. Special acknowledgment goes to Sandra Bowden and John Kohan for their generosity of loaning their collection to the exhibition. The show will be on view until October 19 before heading on to the next venue in Berkley, California.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

“The lilies of the field”: a Dordt College Art Commission

Lilies of the field: Matthew 6:28
David Versluis / Photography
ATS Digital Glass Printing by Skyline Design
Each panel is 24 inches x 24 inches
Commissioned by Dordt College
Science Building Addition, 2014
Dordt College Permanent Art Collection

Artist Statement:

Inspired by the Dordt College prairie, this collection of 12 images shows the Dordt College prairie flora from spring to winter. The series exudes the welcoming effects of nature and offers the viewer a wide array of imaginative possibilities for perception, pattern, scale, texture, color, and transparency.

Northwest Iowa was once covered by tall grass prairie. Today, however, native grassland is one of the most endangered ecosystems on earth and most people would have a hard time recognizing a natural prairie.

This collection, highlighting some of the 80 species of grasses and wildflowers in Dordt’s restored prairie, helps us celebrate the diverse and beautiful original ecosystem known as tall grass prairie.

Ox-Eye Daisy©2014 David Versluis

Butterfly Milkweed©2014 David Versluis

Common Milkweed©2014 David Versluis

Blue Vervain©2014 David Versluis

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