April 2, 2020

Exhibit: Was God Dead?

Hannah Auten ‘23 - Staff Reporter

As of January 25th, a new display was set up in the gallery at Barrington Center for the Arts. The gallery is now filled until March 6th with “Biblical Imagination in German Expressionist Prints” from the collection of Sandra and Robert Bowden, titled “Was God Dead?” 

The rental of the collection was organized by Professor and Curator of the Barrington gallery, Bruce Herman. A lecture was given at the opening of the Gallery by Doctor Daniel A. Siedell, who is an art historian and professor.

The images that are on display were “largely produced by people that were not believers and it was between the two big wars, between World War I and World War II, so it was a time of unimaginable suffering in Germany,” said Herman, “After World War I, Germany went into the worst possible social and economic depression that you can imagine… at one point it was so bad it took a wheelbarrow full of coins to buy a loaf of bread and some vegetables… that was the time period this art was being made.”

In describing one of the paintings by Kathë Kollwitz, Herman describes the piece as a “powerful work about the suffering of women and children during that time, so it’s a work about suffering but it’s also an attempt to find hope even in the midst of the chaos of a collapsing society and so reaching for biblical imagery seemed like a natural thing to do, even for atheist artists, because that was the only kind of imagery that could catalyze or somehow manifest their feelings, their suffering, et cetera.”

“My reason for putting this show up, as a curator, is I want Gordon College students and faculty and people in this community to encounter vigorous powerful imagery produced by people with a strong biblical gesture, who may or may not have been believers, but who are reaching for something in the biblical imagination that could communicate what they were going through,” said Herman. 

Individuals from all different interests and backgrounds should come to view the work within the gallery. If you have never attended such an event, Doctor Siedell described such an experience as being “like going into a Church in a tradition that you don’t know. And you wonder should “I stand or should I sit? How do I do communion?” It’s the pressure, so you have to wait, and you have to learn it. Once you learn, you’re not even thinking about it anymore, but you still learned it… You should just go and look and think and read and not have to feel limited or tied down to a certain kind of lesson, these artists are wanting to effect the heart, the emotions, so bring those rather than the sense that there is some kind of message.”

Sarah Sierzenga, a biology student unfamiliar with attending such events can attest that, “at first it can be a little uncomfortable, like Dr. Siedell described, but once you know realize there isn’t exactly a designated thought process you should have, rather it’s just about making connections to the art and learning what you can.”

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