A Short Essay on Font

Wednesday, May 22, 2002


When I feel the need to draw nearer to the Church, I do so with a bowed head and on bended knee… a posture of humility yes, but also one of cagey caution… one eye on the exits.  Or such was my predisposition when in the spring of 1999 I was contacted by the curator of the Regent College Lookout Gallery, Dal Schindell.  As  part of a vision for the aesthetic enhancement of seven niches in  the College’s exterior facade, he  asked me to prepare some sketches on the theme of the seven “I am” sayings of Christ in the book of John - “I am the true vine … I am the living water” etc…

Naturally I refused.  As a child of the church, I remain perpetually spooked by the prospect, real or imagined, of hitching my hard-won individual expression ever again so eagerly to that beloved gothic-arched band-wagon of my youth.

We agreed that I would instead mount an exhibit of new works at the Lookout Gallery.  New works which, while being informed by these biblical texts, would be created without an agenda; neither the beautification of a building nor the selling of an idea, but simply a frame of reference within and without of which to make art.  I remain grateful for the open hand with which this offer was made so responsive to my needs of the time, and for the journey that ensued.

Font  was among the works created for that exhibition.  Any comments I have about it  must prefaced by saying that I have yet to see my own intent become the sole governing  force in any art work that bears my signature.  I think if you ask any artist to name which are their best works, many will point to those upon which they themselves have the most tenuous grasp.  And so it was with this work; from early on in its realization it became apparent  that it has that balance and tension that one would desire in such a charged image;  between doctrine and digression,  salve and subversion .  This is an image with an overt Christian inflection, and yet I have seen it move behind the defensive lines of people for whom any such intimation is an irritation.

Speaking of irritation, this assertion that meaning could arrive so free of intent does not sit well.  The suggestion of something other than intent at work in the creative process is reasonably dubious to most thinking people, but how does one account when it perennially yields more than was sown?   When pressed, the easy answer is for the artist simply to invoke the exalted notion of Inspiration - that sunny peak upon which he lives and tends his garden, and from which on a clear day you can see Eternity.    The reality is, of course, very different.  The journey of the artist is more plodding and inhabits much lower altitudes, traversing vast stretches of hard-packed and barren ground.  Thus staggering along,  parched and bewildered and pointing a bony finger emphatically toward the unbroken horizon , these ascetic wanderers will grab the arm of  whoever will listen and exclaim “Look!…..Did you see that?!… Do you see that?!”