Art exhibit depicts the search for God

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Art exhibit depicts the search for God
By KURT MOORE • The Marion Star • February 11, 2010

MARION — The Ohio State University at Marion's art gallery set out with a group of questions centering on one theme: How do artists view God?

The pitch for entries led to 135 of them, 42 of which were selected for "Searching for God." Another six will be included in an online exhibition, which will invite public participation.

The exhibit opens Monday at the Wayne & Geraldine Kuhn Fine Arts Gallery, in Morrill Hall on the Marion Campus. It lasts through March 18 and features a public artist reception 4 to 6 p.m. Feb. 22.

"I think it's a very bold move to have this show," Columbus artist Lynda McClahanan said.

Gallery curator Sarah Weinstock and associate professor Scot Kaplan asked questions such as, what is the visage of God or how does God reveal himself. Other questions included how do people search for God, what do they find and what do the findings reveal.
They received artistic responses that included traditional and non-traditional systems of belief, plus beliefs that challenged the notion of God and religion. There will be material describing successful and unsuccessful searches for God.

"I think it's diversity. It isn't presenting one position," Weinstock said. "It's presenting a lot of positions, not ones you expect."

She said the selection process was as much about the artists' statements as their work. They looked through the statements to see if the artists truly set out to answer the questions.

Following up on 2009's "Something about Nothing," this is the second time the gallery has issued a general challenge to artists. Weinstock said the move generated the most entries to date for any exhibit. One entry came from Israel.

"As an artist, it's very interesting," said Brooklyn photographer Damaso Reyes, who is trying to document how Europe is changing as the European Union expands. "Oftentimes artists view religion as controversial or pushing people's buttons."

He said the show's appeal is that it focuses on the role religion plays in society. That fits into his own efforts to explore the role religion is playing in Europe as he focuses on not only the symbols of religion but the believers.

"These people are all searching for God in their own way, through their own faiths and their own methods of worship," he said. "All too often we are concerned more with the icons than the individuals and through my work I hope to show how people in Europe are impacted by their faith."

McClahanan said she found the show intriguing and, being an artist who pursues a feminine depiction of God, appreciated its openness to a variety of views.

McClahanan, who works in sign painters oil enamel on Masonite and wood, describes her subject as the "holiness of ordinary life." She talks about her character called "Red Woman," which symbolizes the Shakti or the concept of divine vital energy or evolutionary longing.

She said she once prepared for a meditation retreat when a "red woman appeared in front of me."

"It felt real to me," McClahanan said. "She said, 'Why are you looking everywhere for me? I'm right here, you fool.'"

"We are always told God is love," she said. "I have fallen in love with the world."

The public will be able to contribute to two blogs included with the online exhibit. They include Mel Alexenberg's "Photograph God: Kabbalah Through a Creative Lens," which invites people to submit photographs of everyday life that reveal the "divine attributes of compassion, strength, beauty, success, splendor or foundation." More information is available at:

Artist Agniezka Prygiel invites people to video a message to God and include it on her blog at:

Reporter Kurt Moore: 740-375-5151 or kdmoore@marionstar.