By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – January 17, 2017) — The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History recently opened a new exhibit entitled The Carved Line: Block Printmaking In New Mexico. The exhibition is summarized as follows: “The Carved Line is about printmaking and printmakers in New Mexico over more than a century of innovation. It features block prints, including new works, by New Mexico’s best-known printmakers and brings to the forefront little-known artists deserving wide recognition and a place in New Mexico’s art historical canon”.
Walking the marvelous exhibit was a feast for the eyes. With works by Gustave Baumann, Willard Clark, Howard Cook, Betty Hahn, T.C. Cannon, Fritz Scholder, Frederick O’Hara, Melanie Yazzie, Harold Joe Waldrum, and Adja Yunkers, one couldn’t help but admire the scope and impact these artists had on the medium. And as I listened to the introductory lecture given by Dr. Josie Lopez on many of the works and artists, my deep love for printmaking increased.
For those not familiar with block printmaking — or woodblock printing, a quick word is in store. Block printmaking is a method of printing text, images or patterns on paper. It was invented in China and migrated to Japan, where some of the earliest masters resided. Europeans began to use the technique in the 15th century, with notable names such as Michael Wolgemut and Albrecht Dürer leading the way. The basic tools consisted of “a block of wood or linoleum, a gouging tool, ink, and paper “.
After hearing the lecture and viewing the art — some of which were Christian in orientation — I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the Christian life, particularly as it relates to salvation.
In Ephesians 2:10, the Apostle Paul writes “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” And earlier in Ephesians Paul writes concerning our salvation, “after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13).
There are two words I’ll draw your attention to. One is workmanship and the other is sealed. The word for workmanship is poiema, meaning product, masterpiece, or a work of art. As a believer in Jesus we are His creation, the craft of Christ’s hands. Or to use the comparative illustration of the block print — we are the wood upon which Christ has carved a chef-d’oeuvre, a masterpiece of His making.
The other word is sealed, which is sphragizo in Greek. It means to stamp with a signet, a mark for preservation. Using the parallel to wood printmaking, the seal would be likened to the ink, setting the image carved by the Artist, preserved and conserved by the Holy Spirit. Christ carves and the Holy Spirit supports, sustains, and sanctifies, providing the stamp of salvation upon our life.
The paper is the person upon whom the wood, ink and seal is set, the individual upon which the Holy Spirit is working to conform into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). In a sense, the image — like some of the wood block prints in the exhibit (especially by those of Gustave Baumann who used various levels to create his prints) will have layers of color and composition. For the Christian, layer one is our initial confession of Christ, the salvation imputed to us based upon Christ’s work. Layer two is the co-activity process between the believer and the Holy Spirit , conforming us into Christ’s image and convicting us of sin (John 16:8). And layer three of the print — our life — is the day we see Christ in person, the paradise of heaven.
As with any analogy, the comparison of our salvation to block printmaking is not perfectly complete. But the likeness between block printmaking to Paul’s description found in Ephesians provides us with a sense of the depth and breath of what was accomplished for, and in, the life of the believer through Jesus Christ. Theologically, this process can be summarized as justification (Christ’s imputed righteousness), sanctification (the work of the Holy Spirit, leading, guiding, and convicting), and glorification (when the work is complete, the moment we see Christ Coram Deo — before the face of God).
Modestly put, we are the print of Christ, the product of His person and work. And printmaking art provides a way to simplify the semblance, to put layers to how salvation looks and we live.
Note: The Carved Line: Block Printmaking in New Mexico runs through April 2017. For more information, click here: http://www.albuquerquemuseum.org/
2) To learn more about the process and works in New Mexico, I recommend the accompanying exhibit book written by Dr. Lopez, The Carved Line: Block Printmaking in New Mexico, published by the Museum of New Mexico Press.
3. See Phil. 2:12
Photo captions: 1) Gustave Baumann, Ranchos de Taos Church, 9 3/8 by 111®4 inches Woodblock Print. 2) The lecture. 3) Harold Joe Waldrum. Woodblock Print. 3) The Carved Line by Dr. Josie Lopez. 4) Brian Nixon.
About the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, artist, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA), Veritas Evangelical Seminary (MA), and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon.
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