Divinity School Unveils New Art Installations

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Monday, March 19, 2012

As part of the ongoing work of the Arts and Aesthetics Committee, the Divinity School has recently installed new works of art in rooms and hallways throughout the school.

To celebrate the unveiling of the artwork, the committee hosted a reception and art tour on March 12. Led by Jo Bailey Wells, the committee chair, professor, and director of Anglican studies, the tour highlighted the new installations and gave several artists an opportunity to describe their work and its significance.

Rachel Campbell painted a series of oil portraits for the Langford basement hallway titled “Our Parish.” The subjects, chosen based on recommendations from the Divinity School community, represent different ages, ethnicities, and walks of life. These portraits, Campbell said, are intended to reflect John Wesley's sentiment that the world is our parish, reminding everyone in the Divinity School that the work and study here is intended to serve all those in our local and global parish. (See a video of Campbell discussing her art and its significance.)

Margaret Parker, the sculptor of the “Reconciliation” statue on the Bovender Terrace, has loaned the school a series of woodcuts titled “Ruth.” She collaborated with Ellen Davis, Amos Ragan Kearns Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, to create the series for the book Who Are You, My Daughter: Reading Ruth Through Image and Text. The starkness and simplicity of the woodcuts, installed in the 0015 Westbrook classroom, trace the story of suffering and redemption found in the book of Ruth. 

A papercut titled “Immersion,” is on loan from Angela Eastman. The painstaking work of cutting a pattern to transform a plain sheet of paper into an intricate, textured work of art is similar to the repetitive discipline of prayer or meditation, Eastman noted. “Immersion” is on display in the Goodson Lobby outside Goodson Chapel.

The Westbrook cloister walk has been transformed into a camera obscura art installation that projects images of the surrounding area onto the walls and ceiling of the hallway. Ethan Jackson, a visiting artist with the Duke University Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies, chose the hallway after a search throughout the Duke campus. The installation constantly changes with the light, revealing images of the Duke Chapel tower, passing clouds, and people walking near the building. The installation will remain through graduation in May. (Watch a video interview with Jackson that discusses the medium of camera obscura and his installation.)

The Divinity School library is also hosting two exhibits. The painting “The Vision of Isaiah” by Luke Allsbrook hangs in the open space between the library desk and the periodicals room. During the tour, Allsbrook described how the scene in Isaiah 6 inspired his art, with the message of grace embedded in the story of the terrifying seraphim and the burning coals that cleansed rather than destroyed Isaiah. The painting incorporates scenery from the mountains of North Carolina, Greek temples, the California coast, and Allsbrook’s artistic rendering of the heavenly beings of the seraphim. The painting is on loan through the end of 2012, and is also available for purchase.

“Haitian Stations of the Cross” by John Sylvestri is on display in the Library Reading Room. Sylvestri created the stations from recycled oil drums in the community where he lives in Croix Des Bouquets, outside of Port Au Prince, Haiti. They were commissioned by Divinity School Chaplain Sally Bates, who leads regular mission trips with Duke Divinity School students to Haiti. The commission included the request that Sylvestri depict Jesus as a Haitian, and the landscape of each station includes the curvilinear vines and flowers typical of Haitian folk art.


Ethan Jackson on the camera obscuraRachel Campbell on "Our Parish"