Word (logos) and Image

Although logos is common to all, most people live
as if they had a wisdom of their own.
1. p.77. Fr.2  FOUR QUARTETS, T.S. Eliot

Word Image

The above quote by T. S. Eliot is still on my old website(http://www.carolbomer.com/quotesandreadings.cfm). Is T. S. Eliot referring to the Logos, who is outside of our manipulated words and images and puny stories — the Logos who holds all things together (Col.1:15) and whose creation pours forth speech day after day (Psalm 19), –the Logos who was in the beginning with God and who is God?

The Logos created all things that have come into being. And The Logos became flesh and lived among us (John 1). Jesus is the Logos or “speech from God.” He is Word of God and Image of God. My current focus is this dichotomy of word and image and how it can be brought together in Christ, the incarnational mystery that brings heaven and earth together (see my statement at www.gracecarolbomer.com).

Words and images have always been integral to my artwork (probably because I am an English major turned artist). I read T. S. Eliot in college and even sculpted a “Hollow Man.” The Word/Logos of God is able to tests the spirit of the age (its images and words). This Word of God gives meaning to life and art, and resolves issues of truth-telling in words and images to bring true community and true healing.

Several of these earlier paintings do not include text but show attempts to address this mystery of Incarnate Word. My later work incorporates both word and image to consider this mysterious union.

Incarnation 1998 1
Incarnation  1998 24 x 30 inches oil on canvas

Word Breathed  2005  42 x 60 inches oil on canvas

As the Scriptures were marginalized in the Enlightenment, the Word of God had less and less effect on culture. Father Johann G. Roten, From Barlach to Baselitz; Religious Print Art of the 20th Century, writes, “The world was no longer considered the many-splendored form of God’s creative genius but human artifact, that is, the sum total of human experimentation and productivity . . . . By the same token, the situation of art was changed. Its new role was to take the place of religion.”

German artist Anselm Kiefer’s early watercolor encapsulates this belief that the artist has his own view of heaven, his own subjective truth. Anselm Kiefer Everyone Stands Under His Own Dome of Heaven (Jeder Mensch steht unter seiner Himmelskugel) 1970. Watercolor, gouache, and graphite pencil on joined paper, 15-3/4 x 18-7/8 inches. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, 1995 © Anselm Kiefer. Photo credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Everyone Stands Under His Own Dome of Heaven (Jeder Mensch steht unter seiner Himmelskugel) 15-3/4 x 18-7/8 inches, 1970

Drew Lowenstein at artcritical.com writes, “Kiefer has unequivocally stated that every man has his own dome, his own perceptions, his own thoughts. There is no one God for all.”

Like his mentor, Joseph Beuys, Kiefer believes the artist must become the shaman and “atoner” to unite heaven and earth. He incorporates palettes and ladders spanning heaven and earth to show this atonement. His molten lead pourings and coverings and shamanistic performances are attempts to provide this atonement for Germany and the world through himself and his art. Joseph Beuys said, “I want to get to the origin of matter, to the thought behind it” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph Beuys).
He was trying to understand the Word/Image dichotomy, and questioning, “How does Word become matter? How does it become a real live person.” He posits himself as the “logos” or shaman to bring redemption.

In a 2007 interview, discussing his Aperiatur Terra exhibition at White Cube, Kiefer sees “truth wandering around, in flux, trembling like the earth itself.” He says he is neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but “desperate.” Man’s efforts are futile like the straw and ashes that he attaches to his paintings. I understand (and even appreciate) his use of biblical metaphors, even though they are profane (Palm Sunday–a dead palm on the studio floor video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLtgYg2iA0A).  I have followed Kiefer’s work for years. Over twenty years ago, I incorporated a Kieferian landscape into one of my mixed media pieces. But my horizon is bisected by the grace of God, which descends into  the dark with the pigs onto the back of the seed-like figure of the Prodigal. Three fence posts cross his back.

Weep_for_the_Wiping 8 x 6
Weep for the Wiping of Grace  oil and mixed media 18×18 inches
(October ’98 cover of Christianity Today)

Like Kiefer I painted the color of straw (or gold) and darkness (ashes and charcoal) asking God to show me his glory.

Show Me Your Glory 2
Lord, Show Me Your Glory  1994  36 x 36 inches

And more recent:

Ready for Love Radix 1
Ready for Love 2006 24 x 24 inches mixed media/oil on canvas

This painting is currently in Spain touring with ARTE-FE. It uses text from many languages, the words literally being covered by a figure.

Steve West writes in his blog Out Walking, “Art teaches through metaphor, symbol, and story, not didactic prose. This is what Flannery O’Connor was getting at when she said that “the whole story is the meaning, because it is an experience, not an abstraction. In other work, art is prostituted and made to serve the message, ascribed value only to the extent it serves the message rather than being recognized as having value simply because it is good art.”

This quest for good art can be found in the wisdom of the eternal logos, art that pours forth speech, declaring the glory of God and his Incarnation. All created reality, things seen and unseen (abstraction and realism) are pictures or parables of this mystery.

Artificial Respiration 36 x 36 WEB
Artificial Respiration 36 x 36 inches oil and mixed media on canvas
Title from science textbook image of an experiment -a bell jar with deflated balloons.

Birthing study 2011
Birthing 2011     12 x 12 inches oil/charcoal on panel

In my next blog post I will discuss this word/image dichotomy further in relation to my Global City Babel Series.

Babel and The Baby 300 dpi
Babel and The Babe   12 x 12 inches mixed media on paper

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2 Responses to Word (logos) and Image

  1. Tracy Lloyd says:

    Carol, thank you for your helpful insights. It is good to be reminded of the power of the Word, and of our responsibility to use words carefully, especially as we raise up boys who are continually spewing forth speech that is not necessarily kind or helpful! Blessings to you and your clan!

    Tracy Lloyd

  2. Steve West says:

    Carol, these are insightful words. Culture is image-ridden and I lament the loss of the vocabulary and Word to bring understanding to what we see. It is a constant struggle to mediate the images I am bombarded with each day on television and the computer screen through the Eternal Word. Thank you.

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