The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 13, 2010

'Hero' worship: Exhibit examines faith in art

JOPLIN, Mo. — The empty storefront at 513 S. Main St. was still in the process of being transformed into a working art studio earlier this week -- a place where all the action will unfold.

The community studio is currently being utilized by the Limner Society to create an exhibition of works made over a one-week period. Working under a short deadline, artists will be working side by side and in full view of passers-by.

The society’s annual gatherings have been held in locations such as New York City, Phoenix, Ariz., and Chiang Mai, Thailand. The Joplin event may seem like an unusual location for the event, but that’s kind of the point, said Jeff Youngblood.

A Joplin artist who works in mixed media, Youngblood was instrumental in bringing the annual event to town.

“I had a show last October in The Village in New York City. I was there and needed a place to stay,” he said. “A mutual friend introduced me to (Limner Society co-founder Daniel Baltzer). He told me about the Limner Society, and I was intrigued by it.”

Addressing misconceptions

A “limner,” as derived from the French word “luminer” and the Latin “liminare,” is defined as “a person who draws of paints,” according to the group’s Web site (www.limnersociety.com).

The Limner Society was founded in 2002 by four art graduates of Taylor University in Upland, Ind. Their annual gathering was established with a mission to encourage Christian artists to not only glorify God but to reach audiences by creating their works in a public forum.

It’s a way to also address some common misconceptions about artists, said Baltzer, who arrived in Joplin this week for the event.

“A lot of people think that Christians only make religious art, and that’s not necessarily the case,” said Baltzer. “Some art is informed by our faith but address issues outside the context of religion.

“For instance, my personal work at home is based on the idea of social networking and the difference between virtual and actual relationships. It discusses themes that aren’t necessarily religious, but it’s informed by my faith when I speak about those themes.”

Another stereotype is that artists create their works “in seclusion and isolation,” he said.

“The reality is that I invite other artists to come critique my work. I learn techniques that make me a better artist.”

As the artists work to create pieces for the exhibition, Baltzer said that the public will have the opportunity to stop in, observe the process and talk with them.

“There will be lots of opportunities for engagement,” he said.

Guest artists participating in the exhibition will include Youngblood, Cindy Woolery and the collaborative team of Jorge Leyva and Jed Schlegel. Work will continue at the studio through Wednesday, Aug. 18. A reception for the artists and a silent auction will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Momentum 8 Studios, 809 S. Main St., as part of Discover Downtown Third Thursday events.

Taking action

The theme for the exhibition is “Action Heroes,” allowing the artists to reflect on the meaning of the word “hero.”

Baltzer said that Christ’s Church of Joplin is serving as the host church for the Limner Society visit, and that the church is currently teaching about “faith in action.”

“We took that idea ... the heroes of our faith and what it looks like to be a hero, what makes someone a hero,” he said.

As she assembled a canvas on a wood frame, Joplin artist Woolery said that the event is “an absolute fit” for where she’s headed in both a spiritual and artistic sense.

“I don’t think (artists) create anything,” Woolery said. “I think we’re given what we do, and we give it to everyone else. It’s like a language of our own.”

While her work will mainly be created in the moment, Woolery said she believes it will focus on Esther, who she said epitomizes the “hero” aspect of the project’s theme.

In the Bible, Esther is a young Jewish girl who becomes queen and is presented with an opportunity to save her people from annihilation.

At a nearby table, Carolee Bundy was preparing to start on a mixed-media piece, using a sketch she had made as a guide.

“It will be about how obedience is what defines us as a hero,” the Joplin artist said.

Bundy said that while she only had a few hours to stop in and work on Wednesday, she’s looking forward to the opportunity to drop by the studio to watch others create their own works of art.

“It’s wonderful, I think. I’m anxious to watch these guys and learn, and to soak up what they know,” she said. “God has placed the gift of creativity in people, and we need to find ways to use that ... which goes back to obedience.”

These days, culture has become too intertwined with the idea of entertainment. That’s a shame, said Baltzer, and something he hopes the Limner Society can help change.

“Art is meant to be contemplative and meditative, and to take us to some other place with our thoughts ... a place that will encourage discussion about issues,” Baltzer said. “We measure art today by how it entertains us, not challenges us.

“We hope to change that perception, both inside the church and outside.”

Benefit sale

Artworks from the “Action Heroes” exhibition will be for sale by silent auction on Thursday. Proceeds will benefit Art Feeds and the Limner Society. Art Feeds works in collaboration with schools and after-school programs to help children develop artistic expression.

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