Roundup: Modern Bible illumination; hula; First Nations baptism design; father-daughter waltz; Tamayo and Parker

ESV Illuminated Bible spread

NEW BOOK: ESV Illuminated Bible (2017): In October Crossway released a new Bible illuminated by Seattle-based designer and lettering artist Dana Tanamachi. Printed in two-color (the illuminations are in gold ink), this volume contains one full-page illustration, custom icon, and illuminated drop cap for each book of the Bible, plus hundreds of hand-lettered Bible verses throughout the margins. There are no human figures in any of the illuminations; most consist of flora and fauna—olives, figs, pomegranates, peacocks, lions, lilies, deer, cedar, and so on—derived from the given book. Be sure to check out the book-opener illustration index, and the short video below, in which Tanamachi introduces herself, talks through her process, and explains some of her artistic choices:

“God loves beauty, so we wanted to honor him through this project with something that was beautiful,” says Josh Dennis, Crossway’s senior vice president of creative. “For this edition we really want people to engage with it, so there’s a lot of negative space and wide margins for people to write in it and to do their own Bible journaling.”

This publication comes six years after the release of Makoto Fujimura’s Four Holy Gospels, another illumination project. Fujimura’s is an oversize book with a $150 price point, containing original abstract paintings reproduced in full color alongside the first four books of the New Testament. By contrast, the ESV Illuminated Bible is more wieldy—it has a 6½ × 9 trim size—and less costly ($45), and it contains all sixty-six books. The aesthetic is also much different, as Tanamachi’s influences include art nouveau, the arts and crafts movement, and designers like William Morris and Koloman Moser. [HT: David Taylor]


CHRISTIAN HULA: “‘O ‘Oe ‘Io” (You Are God): Though reduced to tourist entertainment in some places, Hawaiian hula dancing, in its traditional context, is a form of teaching and worship. Because of its associations with polytheism, the early missionaries denounced it as sinful. Over the last half-century or so, however, most missionaries have changed their stance toward this and other traditional forms of artistic expression—not only in Hawaii, but in whatever their host culture—seeing how such forms can offer more authentic ways for the people to connect to and worship the Christian God.

In the video below, Moani Sitch and ‘Anela Gueco perform a hula noho (“seated hula”) at the 2006 Urbana student missions conference sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. It’s to the Christian hymn “‘O ‘Oe ‘Io” (You Are God), originally written in Maori by Luke Kaa Morgan but translated into Hawaiian by Moses Kaho‘okele Crabbe. The sacred name for Creator God—‘Io—is the same in both languages. The lyrics are below. [HT: Global Christian Worship]

‘O ‘oe ‘Io, e makuna lani (You are God, Heavenly Father)
‘O ‘oe ‘Io, ka waiola (You are God, the Living Water)
‘O ‘oe ‘Io, e kumu ola (You are God, the Source of Life)
Ka mea hana i na mea apau (The one who has made all things)
E ku‘u Haku (My Lord)
Ka mauna ki‘eki‘e (Who is the Highest Mountain)
‘O ‘oe ‘Io (You are God)

For a fantastic religious history of Hawaii, see this PDF booklet published by Aloha Ke Akua (“God Is Love”) Ministries. Among the many things I learned is that Hawaiians regard the arrival of Christian missionaries as the fulfillment of their elders’ prophecies that the one true God would one day return to the islands.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: “Jesus as Chief: ‘Baptism Mural’ by Tony Hunt”: First Nations artist Tony Hunt Sr. died last month, just two months after his son Tony Hunt Jr., also a renowned carver. Read about Hunt Sr.’s inculturated serigraph of Christ’s baptism at my old blog, The Jesus Question—part of a seven-part series I did on Christian art of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Based on a carved and painted design he made for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, it shows John the Baptist as a Kwakwaka’wakw shaman in Native dress and with ceremonial rattle, installing Jesus as chief. The Father is manifest as Sun and the Spirit as Thunderbird.  

Baptism by Tony Hunt
Chief Tony Hunt Sr., OBC (Kwakwaka’wakw, 1942–2017), Baptism Mural, 1976. Serigraph, 22 × 12.8 in. (55.9 × 32.5 cm.).


BALLROOM DANCE: Waltz to Mindy Gledhill’s “Anchor”: Dancing with the Stars is one of my guilty pleasures—a TV competition show that pairs professional ballroom dancers with celebrities, who learn and compete in all ten standard/smooth and Latin/rhythm dances. Last season one of the competitors was Lindsey Stirling, a sweet-spirited, Billboard-topping violinist who fuses pop, hip-hop, and classical styles in her performances, and who is vocal about her faith. One of my favorite dances she did with pro partner Mark Ballas is the waltz in memory of her father, who passed away from cancer last January; Ballas wears his hat and scarf. Sentimental is the order of the day for “Most Memorable Year” night, but hey, I don’t mind a little sentiment every now and then! This is such a sweet tribute. The dance starts at 2:08.


ART EXHIBITIONS: This past weekend I visited two art exhibitions. The first was “Tamayo: The New York Years” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, which runs through March 18. It features paintings by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo made during his extended sojourns in New York City between 1926 and 1949—many a synthesis of modernist and indigenous styles, and several, like Lion and Horse, expressing the existential crisis of World War II.

Women Reaching for the Moon by Rufino Tamayo
Rufino Tamayo (Mexican, 1899–1991), Women Reaching for the Moon, 1946. Oil on canvas. Private collection. Photo: Victoria Emily Jones.
Lion and Horse by Rufino Tamayo
Rufino Tamayo (Mexican, 1899–1991), Lion and Horse, 1942. Oil on canvas. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis. Photo: Victoria Emily Jones.

The second exhibit I went to was “Creativity and the Prophetic Voice: Sculpting Mary as Prophet” at Convergence in Alexandria, Virginia, which closes January 20. It centers on a series of photographs by B. Cayce Ramey that document Margaret Adam Parker’s artistic process for the making of her Visitation sculpture, Mary as Prophet, for Virginia Theological Seminary. When I was there, Ramey, an Episcopal priest, and his colleague Fr. Jabriel Ballentine led us in a discussion on Parker’s decision to portray the two biblical women as African, and we also talked through the controversial photos Ramey took at the foundry, quite incidentally, that showed these bronze African figures hanging from the ceiling with nooses round their necks—which is how foundries move heavy sculptures from place to place. The discussion was taped and will be released soon on the podcast Racial Heresy.

Also on display at the exhibit are some of Parker’s small-scale terracotta and plaster sculptures—a few of which I snapped photos of. See her Visitation sculpture here, and her art essay “Where Sorrow and Pain Are No More.”

Lamentation and Wall by Margaret Adams Parker
Margaret Adams Parker (American, 1948–): Lamentation, 2003, plaster over armature; Wall: About Suffering . . ., 2003, plaster over armature, wood, string, nail. Photo: Victoria Emily Jones.
American Pieta by Margaret Adams Parker
Margaret Adams Parker (American, 1948–), American Pietà (Grieving), 2008. Terracotta. Photo: Victoria Emily Jones. One of six finalists in Alexandria’s 2008 design competition for a memorial to honor the 1,800 African Americans buried in the city’s Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery.

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