Divinity Library Hosts Allsbrook Painting

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

In an exhibit sponsored by the Divinity School Arts and Aesthetics Committee, the library is now hosting the painting, The Vision of Isaiah, by professional artist Luke Allsbrook.

"The Vision of Isaiah"The 2006 oil painting depicts a moment in Isaiah 6:1-7 when Isaiah sees the glory of the Lord, believes his destruction is sealed, and is saved when a seraph touches his lips with a burning coal.

“It’s a unique painting,” said Allsbrook. “It’s not a painting I made to send to a gallery to be sold right away. It’s one I wanted to do, that means a lot to me and conveys a lot.” The story acts as a powerful metaphor for the gospel, he explained, with images of condemnation and judgment resolving in cleansing and forgiveness.

Jo Bailey Wells, chair of the arts committee and associate professor of the practice of Christian Ministry and Bible, had used the painting in an exegesis class she taught on the book of Isaiah. As part of the class, she spent two sessions on Isaiah 6. In the first she offered a detailed verbal exegesis of Isaiah’s call narrative. In the second she encouraged visual exegeses, showing paintings, including The Vision of Isaiah, based on the same text. Allsbrook’s painting inspired a 20-minute discussion.

“I found the painting to be a really thoughtful interpretation of Isaiah 6," Wells said. "You get a sense of heaven and Earth, and the remarkable perspective of the heavens from Earth, with the distance and the drama of their interconnection. I think that’s communicated by the generosity of God’s robe that reaches down—yards and yards of fabric in which Isaiah is caught up.”

Allsbrook at workWhen Allsbrook contacted the Divinity School about loaning the painting, Wells jumped at the chance to display the work. “This was a generous gift from my point of view,” she said. “I want to encourage students to think visually in their own work of exegesis and interpretation.”

Roger Loyd, director of the Divinity School Library and a member of the arts committee, was eager to display the work in the library. “We’ve had art displayed here since I’ve been at the library. I think this is a really good case for displaying art that’s worth seeing, not just for covering up a wall,” he said.

Allsbrook, who lives in western North Carolina and whose parents are Duke alumni, said he was moved to offer the loan to Duke by a lifetime of love for the school and after reading an article on Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts. “I appreciated that Duke is making a real effort to highlight the arts,” he said.

The painting will be on display through Dec. 31, 2012.

All images courtesy of Luke Allsbrook.