AU’s Wilson Galleries will host the traveling exhibition “Marc Chagall and the Bible” this month. The show features several of Chagall’s lithographs, etchings and crucifixion works. Students and members of the community can view these works and attend lectures on the religious significance of the works and the historical background that influenced Chagall’s subject matter.
The show will run from Jan. 19 through Feb. 23, with the opening reception taking place on Friday, Jan. 26 from 6 p.m.- 7 p.m.
Immediately following the opening reception, Dr. Deidre Dempsey, associate professor of Old Testament at Marquette University, will be giving a lecture focusing on the religious aspects featured in Chagall’s work in Hartung 101.
On Tuesday, Feb. 6 from 6-7 p.m., Dr. David Murphy, professor of history at AU, will be giving a lecture focused on the historical and cultural aspects of Chagall and his work in Wilson Gallery.
Marc Chagall, who lived from 1877–1995, is widely considered the foremost visual interpreter of the Bible in the 20th century. Utilizing wit and joy, he depicts the stories that we know so well from the Old Testament. His art is filled with his own reoccurring symbols of visual memory and imagination.
Born to a humble Jewish family in the ghetto of Vitebsk, Russia, Chagall was steeped in Hasidic culture. Encouraged by his mother, he began studying art, leaving for Paris in 1910. It was there that he met and worked with many influential artists of the early 20th century and developed his own artistic style, never abandoning the love of his Jewish traditions, nor of the Bible.
“Since my early youth I have been fascinated by the Bible,” Chagall said during his lifetime. “It has always seemed to me and it seems to me still that it is the greatest source of poetry of all time. Since then I have sought this reflection in life and in art. The Bible is like an echo of nature and this secret I have tried to transmit.”
Chagall’s vision of the Old Testament combines his Jewish heritage and modern art, giving viewers a unique interpretation of symbols and imagination. Through this collection, on loan to the university through Bowden Collections, not only will viewers get to see Chagall’s original works up close and personal, they will get to learn more about who he was as a person and have the opportunity to read what his thought process was like in making each piece.
“Getting to encounter an actual piece of art in person is far more powerful than if you were to see it in print,” said Tai Lipan, director of university galleries at AU. “It’s beautiful and it’s not often that we are able to show work from a historical figure like Chagall, so showing a collection of his work is a huge deal for us.”
The School of Theology has been working closely with Lipan to bring this remarkable exhibit to AU.
“They have all expressed interest in working with the arts,” said Lipan. “The conversations we’ve had about how art and faith intersect are really exciting and interesting. It’s been exciting to see other areas wanting to be in linking art to their subject matter.”
Dr. Samantha Miller, assistant professor of the history of Christianity; Dr. Jason Varner, assistant professor of the history of Christianity; and Dr. Nathan Willowby, assistant professor of theology and ethics, have organized the series of lectures to reinforce the interdisciplinary capabilities of this exhibit. As a liberal arts and Christian university, that overlap is crucial.
“I have loved getting to work with my colleagues here on a project that crosses disciplinary boundaries,” said Miller. “Life is too interconnected for us to stay in our own little offices and parts of campus; we’re richer when we’re working together to glimpse God’s glory. As for getting to work with Deirdre, it’s a gift to become the colleague and work alongside one of the best professors I had.”
Once the gallery is open, students and members of the community will have access to this free exhibit Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Feb. 23.
“I hope that students will see some of the richness of the world, that life will have a bit more texture,” said Miller. “I want them to see that theologians and artists need each other and that the world really can use both of them.”