“Art for Advent 2017” (Dr. James Romaine): For the third year in a row, my friend James Romaine, an art historian, is releasing four videos in which he discusses historically significant artworks keyed to the season of Advent. Last year he looked at works from the Met Cloisters; this year he’s focusing on paintings by the African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859–1937). If you want to learn more about Tanner, see Romaine’s essay on him in the recently published book Beholding Christ and Christianity in African American Art, which Romaine coedited; I own a copy and look forward to reviewing it on the blog in the new year! (Update: Here’s the book review.)
Romaine’s first “Art for Advent 2017” video covers Tanner’s Annunciation, which has been the header image of this website for the last two months. I saw the painting in person for the first time this summer at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and it transfixed me. (Along with Rogier van der Weyden’s Crucifixion, it was my favorite piece on display.) It was the first major painting of a biblical subject that Tanner completed following his six-week trip to the Holy Land, undertaken as part of his search for historically authentic imagery.
First Sunday of Advent: The Annunciation:
Second Sunday of Advent: The Holy Family:
Third Sunday of Advent: Flight into Egypt:
Fourth Sunday of Advent: Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures:
To view “Art for Advent” videos from previous years, visit Romaine’s Seeing Art History YouTube channel.
“The Joyous Mysteries” (The Liturgists): Meditating on the five “Joyous Mysteries” of Christ’s childhood—the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation in the Temple, and the Finding of Christ in the Temple—is a Catholic devotional practice, part of “praying the rosary,” that some Protestants have found spiritually helpful and have adapted to their own quiet times with God.
To draw us into the movements of the Christmas story, The Liturgists invited four visual artists to create a work based on one of the first four Joyous Mysteries. They then shot two videos for each artwork—one an “Artist Narrative,” where the artist talks about his or her work and process, and the other an “imago divina” meditation led by Mike McHargue (“Science Mike”), which guides us through looking at and responding to the artwork. The videos are backed by original instrumental compositions by Tim Coons of Giants & Pilgrims and one by Jon Leverkuhn, which you can download for free on Bandcamp. You can also purchase signed, limited edition art prints for $35 each, or $95 for a full set.
Here is the list of videos; I’ve embedded my two favorites (I’m partial to figurative art):
Thank you, Liturgists and friends, for this impressive Advent offering!
FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION:
>> GIANTS & PILGRIMS: I have had Tim Coons tracks on my Spotify playlists for some time, but this was the first I’ve heard of the Giants & Pilgrims collaboration he has going with his wife, Betony. Together they produce audiovisual (song and art) suites, or albums, in which Tim writes music and Betony paints images—and the two artforms form mutually resonant pairings. They released their third such album, Bellweather: Cathedrals, just this year. Take a look around their website—it’s a feast for the ears and eyes!
>> IMAGO DIVINA: “Imago divina,” or visio divina (“divine seeing”), is a contemplative practice for engaging spiritually with art. It’s adapted from the four-step process of praying with scripture known as “lectio divina.” If you enjoyed the meditation videos above and want to explore this practice in more depth, here are a few resources:
- Seeing the Word blog posts: Praying with the St. John’s Bible illuminations
- Article: “Praying with Art – Visio Divina” by Tim Mooney
- Book: Contemplative Vision: A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer by Juliet Benner
Note that the methods shared in these resources differ from the sacred Orthodox practice of praying with icons. Some of the principles may be the same, but the Eastern Church’s theology of images is foundationally different from the Western Church’s (both Catholic and Protestant).
Advent Word Studies (The Bible Project): Many Protestant churches that celebrate Advent organize their worship services for the season around four major biblical themes (one for each Sunday): Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. These are the names, for example, of the four candles of the Advent wreath.
These words are bandied about a lot during December, and not just by religious people. The world often talks about them in generic ways, but Christian peace, Christian hope, Christian joy, and Christian love are distinct. This month The Bible Project is releasing four animated videos that explore some of the ways the biblical authors, writing in Hebrew and Greek, used these words, and why they are essential aspects of the gospel.
First Sunday of Advent: Hope (Yakhal):
Second Sunday of Advent: Peace (Shalom):
Third Sunday of Advent: Joy (Chara):
Fourth Sunday of Advent: Love (Agape):
The Bible Project is a nonprofit animation studio that produces short-form, fully animated videos to make the biblical story accessible to everyone, everywhere. It’s headed by Tim Mackie, a pastor with a PhD in Semitic languages and biblical studies, and Jon Collins, whose background is in digital media and marketing. What these guys do is amazing. Seriously. I do not offer high praise lightly. The level of care they put into each video—research, design, etc.—is evident. Please, if you haven’t encountered them already, do yourself a favor and visit their website and spend time perusing its wealth of resources (which, besides videos, includes Bible study workbooks and regular podcast episodes): https://thebibleproject.com/. I have been immeasurably blessed by the work of its team of creatives.
In October the studio published its first coffee table book, Read Scripture: Illustrated Summaries of Biblical Books, which brings together the diagrams from all its Read Scripture videos. It was such a hot seller that it’s already in its second edition!
(Note: This blog post contains new links to the video installments that were forthcoming at the time of this post but have since been published.)