American Visionary Art Museum

American Visionary Art Museum

We occasionally receive press releases and program suggestions from listeners highlighting the many ways people are exploring the relationship between religion and art. It’s hard to translate visual art to radio, but we’re always talking about other arts programs, especially music, and our website opens up other options for us to consider. One recent alert came from the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore about their current exhibit: All Faiths Beautiful: From Atheism to Zoroastrianism, Respect for Diversity of Belief.

It features works from 50 artists on the subject of belief. They define visionary art as “art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.” I asked for some examples of the work in the exhibit, and found beauty and mystery in “Untitled” by Edith Valentine Tenbrink and “Triptych (Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha)” by Christina Varga. Varga painted doors she found on a street in New York City. In trying to find an image of Muhammad to compare to her work, she learned about the Islamic tradition of not depicting his image. She chose to adapt it by using calligraphy she found in a Qur’an.

Images courtesy of the American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore


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What's really interesting is how Muhammad's face, in the above painting, is not directly represented, but rather is composed of calligraphic verses from the Qur'an (I can't make out the details, but I'm assuming that's the source). I imagine this was done out of respect to Islamic tradition that shies away from depicting Muhammad (though there have been many historical exceptions to that).

Thanks for visiting the American Visionary Art Museum! It's great to be part of the exhibit and even nicer to find people that are appreciative of the art in the exhibit All Faiths Beautiful. Thanks so much for the nod. Christina Varga -

My sons and I mixed art and religion in a great way during the Christmas season in 2007. I wrote a lengthy story about a father telling his children a story about a shepherd who didn't make time to go to the manger. My 11 year old wrote music for six short songs that went along with the story and helped me record the story and songs. My 8 year old made sculpted beeswax characters for many of the characters in the story--including the shepherd and a priest. My 11 year old then took the beeswax characters and some other characters from nativity scenes my wife owns and took still photographs. We put together an elaborate slide show with the story, music, and pictures. It helped me to think about the nativity story in new ways and examine my own convictions about making time for spirituality. It was a great family experience. And we got to mix art and religion at three levels. Given taht the AVAM is in Baltimore, maybe it is something about Baltimore as that is where we live.

I have used religious images as inspiration for many years. I created a body of work I call "Angels and Icons" with portraits of saints, the Madonna, and many other "icons." If not for the patrons of the arts who funded early work...there would not be as much religious work on view in churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, etc.

Kindly Post your Art and Pics Online .

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