(Photos by Kelly Ocock)
This semester on-campus women’s Bible studies are taking inspiration from an exhibition on display at the Kruizenga Art Museum (KAM). The exhibit entitled “Gospel Stories” features 47 pieces designed by German artist Otto Dix and Japanese artist Sadao Watanbe. Both 20th century artists portray Jesus in their pieces, as they were inspired to engage with the Christian faith after World War II.
Hope Chaplain of Discipleship Lauren Taylor organizes the women’s Bible studies and helped the Hope Ministries team center the 2016-17 school year on the Gospel of Matthew. “The KAM came to us last year and told us they wanted to bring in this exhibit and asked if we wanted to partner with them,” Taylor said. “We thought it was a great idea.”
In response, Taylor and Campus Ministries intern and Western Theological Seminary student Emily Holehan put together a Bible study that invites Hope women to read passages from Matthew that are depicted in Dix’s work.
Some of the pieces used in the study feature memorable Gospel moments such as Jesus calming the storm in Matthew 8 and the feeding of the five-thousand in Matthew 14. However, other pieces portray more obscure scenes such as Jesus healing Jarius’ daughter in Matthew 9. The illustrations were all included in a stand-alone edition of the Gospel of Matthew after Berlin publisher Käthe Vogt commissioned Dix to design the pieces during the 20th century.
Hope student Natalie Zeller (’18) was introduced to Dix’s art while training to be a Bible study leader at the beginning of the semester. “When Lauren was first talking about it, I thought the art would look like stereotypical biblical pictures,” Zeller said. “But they’re very dark, especially the Great Commission piece. In it, Jesus looks really tired, so it’s interesting to see the artist’s take on Matthew. Also, it’s fun because [Campus Ministries] has never done anything like this.”
Taylor expressed excitement for this creative take on studying the Bible as well. “When you look at art, it’s like reading with different words,” she said. “I’m hoping that because the exhibit is so powerful, that the leaders will bring their girls through [the KAM] and have fun using photos of the pieces in their studies.”
Women’s Bible study leaders have started meeting with their groups this semester, and so far, the partnership seems to be a success. “My group liked it a lot,” Zeller said. “We were looking at the magi passage last week, and it was interesting because the pictures were sketched in the 60s, but Dix portrayed the wise men as racially different. That sparked some good conversation.”
Taylor didn’t specify whether Campus Ministries would partner with the KAM for future Bible studies. However, she does recognize the importance of art and the Gospels. “I could get up there and teach leaders about Matthew, or I could send emails to everybody about what themes to look for, but it’s so much more powerful when you connect it with art,” Taylor said. “It sticks in our hearts and our souls in a different way.”
Gospel Stories is on display until May 20, Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.