By John Mirisola '11
Image: Peregrini Pro Amore Dei by Bruce Herman (detail shown on slide; full image, right)
Standing in front of Bruce Herman’s painting, “Peregrini Pro Amore Dei,” it’s easy to find signs of the work that went into the piece—markings where paint went onto the canvas and where it was removed, a history of new starts and evolving ideas. “I don’t make seamless images in which you can’t tell that something has been wrought,” Herman said. “I want people to see the evidence of process.”
It’s fitting, then, that his piece finds itself in an exhibit titled WORK: Curse or Calling, sponsored by Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA). Operating out of Gordon’s Barrington Center for the Arts, CIVA has supported Christian artists for over 30 years with conferences, exhibitions, programs and publications. This latest exhibit, now on view in the Barrington Gallery, features 30 works by Christian artists from across the globe.
These varied pieces explore what work and vocation mean through the lens of a cursed yet redeemed humanity. Some, such as Alan Vales’ “Cursed Earth,” “Thistles,” and “Thorns,” call attention to the fruitlessness of the earth after the Fall; others, like Guy Chase’s “Ledger for a Productivity Initiative,” playfully inject a human element into common workplace images. Herman’s piece both laments the curse of labor and toil, and celebrates their redemption through the work of Christ: it is about that process of reclaiming work as a sacred act.
“I understand the concept of this exhibition to key into that paradox: that work that was initially painful—the labor of giving birth, the labor of digging the hard-packed earth to try to get it to yield something—will become a source of blessing and redemption,” Herman says. “And the proof is that at the end of time, we don't return to the Garden of Eden; we end up in a city—the new Jerusalem. God doesn't create cities; God creates gardens. Human beings create cities. So there's the implication that somehow God moves in and collaborates with us. Our work is honored and transfigured at the end of time.”
This conversation finds a comfortable setting at Gordon College, where topics of faith and vocation are explored in contexts like the Elijah Project honors program, in chapel and in classrooms across campus. “Gordon—a place where our work is dedicated to the Lord—seems like the right place to experience a show about the potential redemption of our work,” said Herman.
Herman has been a member of the Art Department faculty for 28 years. He is also the Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in the Fine Arts.
WORK: Curse or Calling will be on display in the Gallery at Barrington Center for the Arts through February 16. Click here to view the pieces on display in this exhibit online.