Theologian Paul Tillich described art as the mirror of our predicament. Writing in 1959, he described the rapidly changing depictions of man that were emerging with each decade as a reflection of an identity crisis within man himself. Humanity is not something we simply have but must fight for anew every generation and face the possibility of losing that fight. “When in abstract or non-objective painting and sculpture, man disappears entirely, one is tempted to ask, ‘What happened to man?’ The question is pointed at artists with undertones of embarrassment, anger, and even hostility. But instead we should ask ourselves, ‘What has become of us?’” In this still life painting I took what is so familiar, so comfortable, a simple wooden chair out of the painting, leaving a dark void in its place.
Artist statement, May 27, 2020
The above quote comes from a brief statement that Isaac wrote about this painting one year ago. He unpacked it for me a bit more in person. When the human figure disappeared from modern art, it was not as much the fault of the artist as was a reflection of the devaluing of humanity in our society. Accordingly, Isaac left a blank space in this painting where the chair should be. This was to say that that so much of what naturally accommodates our humanity is lost in our culture as people seek after novelty and try to redefine what it means to be human. In contrast, the drapery represents the perfection of God, with it’s folds reflecting the natural beauty of our world.
Isaac said that his academic curriculum pushed him to pursue abstract art as a means of self expression, but he was more interested in expressing God’s truth. Here, he juxtaposes the missing chair of post-modernity with the natural contours of creation.
At the same time, Isaac was exploring how ancient Christian iconography reflects the natural form of matter in the light of redemption. The contours in the rock of Christ’s tomb, the folds of the saint’s garments, the ripples of water–all these things help to create compositions that point to the permanence of God’s beauty.
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