Spirituality in Art

Religion and mysticism are the focus of a new exhibit at Haverford College's Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery.

"Spirituality in Art," running September 20 - November 3, 2002, contains 65 spiritually themed works from the collections of Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges and from friends of Haverford. Featuring paintings, photography, prints, and books, the exhibit spans more than 550 years of art, from the 1400s to the present day.

Noteworthy works include such paintings as Wassily Kandinsky's Abstraction, Henry Ossawa Tanner's Moonlight Tangier, Marc Chagall's Celestial Bodies, and Romara Bearden's Madonna and Child; prints by Rembrandt; books such as the King Ja,mes edition of the Bible; and photographs like Ansel Adams' Moonrise Hernandez and Diane Arbus' Albino Sword-Swallower.

The exhibit is curated by Haverford professor and chair of fine arts department William Williams, himself a renowned photographer. The idea for the exhibit was borne out of his ongoing interest in art's religious themes and the emotions they evoke in viewers. "People get a sense of another dimension, a part of our consciousness," he says. "It can't be expressed in words, but we know it when we feel it." He explains that spirituality has been a part of the creation of art since its earliest forms: "It's a testament to the transcendence and healing power of art, reminding us that no matter how we may feel, we still have hope to be here and go on living."

"Spirituality in Art" also features two lectures by experts on the subject. Haverford alumnus William Wixom '51, curator emeritus in the department of medieval art and the Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will speak about "aspects of Spirit and Mysticism in Art" October 7, while Melinda Boyd Parsons, professor of art history at the University of Memphis, presents "Pantheism, 'Primitivism' and Pilgrimage: The Spiritual in Modern Art" October 25, with a reception to follow. Both lectures will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the Sharpless Auditorium of the Marian E. Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center.

The exhibit and its accompanying lectures are sponsored by Haverford's Gest Program, named in honor of the parents of artist Margaret Gest (whose work is included in the display). The program fosters cross-cultural dialogue about religion and other issues that affect contemporary life.