Art as prayer
A rambling by Tom Knapp

Art can be a prayer, a form of worship and a celebration of faith.

As Deb Munson said during a February 2009 showcase, God can be found in the details of art -- in the brush strokes of a painting or the movement of a body in dance. And that, she said, is the reason Artists' Junction exists.

The 150 or so members of Artists' Junction, who showed their work at the 2009 Snowflake Gala in Lancaster on this particular Sunday, are all "artists of faith," Munson said, but that doesn't mean they all sit around painting pastoral scenes of shepherds and lambs. That, she said, is one of the many misconceptions about Christian artists.

"The group is about networking. We critique each other's work; we spur each other on and keep each other creative," she said. "Our focus is bringing what we believe is the beauty and peace of God into the world through our art."

However, Munson said, the phrase "Christian artist" can be misleading.

"That doesn't necessarily mean the art is going to be only religious-looking art," she said. "It shows what God has allowed the artists to see and visualize, what He has allowed them to capture on canvas.

"God is huge. So the work is huge."

The fruits of their labors were unveiled Sunday at the Snowflake Gala at Mulberry Art Studios.

While Junction members gather in small groups -- mostly in each others' homes -- throughout the year, the gala is their annual chance to shine before the public at large. "It's a very eclectic mix of creative people," Munson said.

Some items on display were overtly religious in nature, including a painting by Nick Kienzle showing a hand from above drawing a drowning man from the water and one by Priscilla Williams that uses a lighthouse as a heavenly metaphor. Judy Walton exhibited several hand-carved wooden crosses. DeAnn Roe straddled the boundaries in her art with an acrylic painting of a man stretched out in supplication beside a detailed photograph of a water droplet on a leaf.

And some works appeared entirely secular, such as Marian Zimmerman's watercolor of a girl in a tree swing and a series of nature paintings by Gary Greene.

Drawn mostly from the artistic community in Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties, the Artists' Junction was formed by Munson and her husband, Tim, in 2002. The couple was living in Lititz and started a small group there, she said; when they moved to Lancaster in 2006, they began to work on a bigger scale and "tried to plug into the arts community and make our presence here."

The Snowflake Gala celebrated performance art as well as visual. Besides dozens of artists whose work was displayed on walls and tables, the show featured brief performances that varied from song and dance to poetry and robotic mime.

The event also provided a small, meditative chamber for "creative prayer" and another room for hands-on arts and crafts for children.

"God is a richly textured god," Munson said, "and he has so much he wants to give through the arts."

by Tom Knapp