Today my work will be featured on a segment of a television show called “Artful”, produced by Monument tv. It will air at 8 am MST and then again at 1 pm on the BYU tv channel, and then it will be available for streaming after that on the BYU TV website. While I haven’t yet seen it myself, the other episodes are beautifully and sensitively done, and my experience with the production team was truly delightful and meaningful. I hope that you will have a chance to take a look.
I wanted to share a series of images showing the process of the making of an underpainting which I have been working on for the past few months. The image itself is an illustration of a vision of the biblical prophet Zechariah laid out in chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Zechariah in the Old Testament. It is a beautiful story of God’s grace and restoration, rich in symbolism and images. It is not very long and is certainly worth reading.
This grisaille is done in egg tempera on an oak panel, built from an oak that came down on my father’s farm in Greenwood county, was subsequently milled (quarter sawn) and air dried for 10 years. The panel has been cradled with walnut and ash to help keep it flat over time. The surface is a traditional gesso as describe out by the 14th century Florentine Cennino Cennini in his Il libro dell’arte. Once the grisaille is complete, I will start to paint layers of translucent colored oil glazes, hopefully to beautiful effect.
Archival Prints of Jacob Wrestling With God Are Available for Sale!
We have produced two limited editions, one large and one small, reproducing the oil painting I made of Jacob Wrestling with God. These reproductions were painstakingly digitally edited and then individually printed by my good friend Mike Schultz in his Portland, Oregon studio. The image is printed on a satisfyingly thick Epson hot press bright white paper using Epson inks. The colors are vivid, rich and archival. Each print is personally signed and numbered.
As stated above, we’ve made two sizes of prints, and they are available for sale in our online store, Baumwerkshop. There is a listing is for the larger of the two, which is 17″ x 20″, and a listing for the smaller, which is 8 1/2″ by 10″.
The original painting of Jacob was made in 2012. I have continued to be amazed and humbled by the impact the painting has had on people. I often receive heartfelt messages from individuals expressing to me how the painting has helped them through a difficult season, or has helped to illustrate challenging and meaningful theology. The image has even found its way onto album covers, book covers, and countless church bulletins.
As a result, many have expressed a desire to have a reproduction of the painting available for sale. This is the first time I have attempted to produce and sell reproductions of any of my paintings. I hope that the final product is a blessing to you.
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40 NIV
He came to see me when I was on the margins, lonely and far away and he celebrated the paintings and the puppets I made. He was not a common man. He made room for me and the others like me to exist in a world that drew lines so sharp that we were cut off. Not only did he make room- he invited me in to a wider place- with light and life and hope. My wife, Amy, received word of the passing of the Reverend David Bridgeman only a few weeks ago, though he left for home back in August.
I know woefully little of his personal story. I know that he was born in China to missionary parents- and he was always drawn back to that land, returning as often as he could to share the God that he loved wth the people that he loved. He delighted to share stories and photos and artifacts of the land and people of south western China whenever I saw him.
Always an old man to my eyes- older by at least a decade than i am now (42) when I first encountered him nearly 30 years ago. His prayers were beautiful and rich, authentic and long. I respected them, though my tired teenage body would often nod then lurch back awake in my pew before he finished. He possessed both ancient wisdom and childlike awe with genuine humility. His old blue hatchback was a persistent reminder of his values. It was a solitary and quiet voice amongst the ostentatious suv’s and sedans in the church parking lot, not unlike Colombo’s oxidized Peugeot.
We shared a love for Gruenwald’s unparalleled Issenheim Altarpiece, and especially the figure of John the Baptist, of which he would speak with a beautiful passion. It could bring us both to tears. He once bought for me a reproduction of the closed state of the altar, featuring the crucifixion, from a seminary in China. Framed and on my wall with its captions in Chinese characters, it is more than a relic of my favorite painting, but of mentorship, friendship, and of a man whose embrace circled the globe.
I have long considered David one of my painting teachers. When I came home on break from art school in Kansas City, I would bring the paintings I was working on with me so that he could see them. He would prop a picture up on a chair in his office and look at it in silence. Then after a while he would start to speak about what he was seeing. He would go through every detail and talk about what it made him think about- how he saw it relating to God’s story. As a spiritual painter in a secular school, I had no shortage of technical conversations about composition and color and line, but nobody would touch the spiritual implications with a ten foot pole. David could talk about the formal aspects of art, but he would dive right into the symbolism and wouldn’t come up for an hour. When he did he had more associations and story from a picture I painted than I had ever imagined could be in there, and I was the one who painted it. He helped lay a foundation for a core belief I hold about painting; being a deeply poetic visual language that always caries more information than what the artist intended. At my best, I am an apprentice/collaborator with the Holy Spirit, and any viewer might hold keys into the symbolism of my work that I hadn’t seen before. This dynamic has become one of the things I treasure most about making art: learning from the insights of the audience about what is really in there. It is a big part of being a student in the School of the Transfer of Energy.
David and His wife Mary waited patiently, over five years, for the painting they had requested. I had free reign and it took quite a while before I felt I had a fitting subject. On one of my repeated visits to the Loretta Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in a dark corner far above and to the right of the altar is a painting of a fish resting on top of a loaf of bread. I had never noticed it before- but it captivated me now. I loved the simplicity and power of the image- so straightforward in the story it was referencing, the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Soon afterwards as I contemplated the image and how I might approach it, I was reading Thor Heyerdahl’s account of his and his countryman’s pacific voyage to the Polynesian Islands from South America on a Balsa log raft named Kon-Tiki. I was struck (as were the sailors) by the almost miraculous provision of flying fish that helped to feed them on their long journey. From that day the flying fish became a new symbol for me of God’s unexpected provision. It became the centerpiece for David’s painting.
I wish my account of David wasn’t so self-centered. But I knew him through his self-less investments into me and my family. He also sponsored my wife Amy through her own ordination process. I am grateful for all that I have received from God through David. The greatest honor I can give him is to say truthfully that he was like John the Baptist in our painting, always pointing and crying “behold! the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world!”
The Reverend Jason Carter, who also grew up under David’s mentorship has written a much more fitting and beautiful remembrance of David here.
Workshop, Studio & Land
A slew of recent additions to our Etsy storefront are pictured below. There are prints, bowls, handmade goat milk soap with free shipping and a few paintings, even. Please click on the green BaumWerk sign immediately below to visit the store. Thank you!
Elizabeth Duffy has been posting parts of an interview she began with me last spring and summer. To date, this interview consistutes the clearest and really, only articulation of the beliefs and values behind my work. I hope that you will take the time to read it. The interview will ultimately be posted in it entirety on this site, but for now, here is part 1, part ll, part lll, and the final bit part lV. Please take the time to read some of Elizabeth’s writing as well. She is authentic, humorous, and insightful. Her wit and self-effacing style reveal a woman on a significant journey with valuable things to say.
Those of you who are regular visitors know I have been slowly overhauling the pages here at The School of the Transfer of Energy. If you are new, know you know too. There are still some pages to rebuild, but for the latest, please take a few moments to visit the new Painting page. This has been perhaps the most personally interesting page to remake. Seeing so many of my paintings re ordered and in a fresh context has been revealing. Below are a few samples. I hope you enjoy them, and thank you for visiting. -Jack
all images are held in copyright by Jack Baumgartner. use by permission only
This is a blog about images and stories, technology and craft. For the sake of Yaakov as well as others I will risk a distance from the normal sparseness of words and do my best to write a little about the symbolism in Jacob Wrestling With God.
When I make a painting, there is always a tension between intent and intuition. In the painting of Jacob, there is meaning that I intended to place there and there is meaning that emerges as I work, often pointed out by an outside observer. Both are placed there in faith, and both are discovered again in faith. I receive requests to reproduce the image of Jacob Wrestling with God regularly. Whatever other arrangements are made, I always beg the insight of the requestor, because I want to know what has been placed in my work by God, which is hidden to me, but perhaps not to them. One gracious responder was Robbie Pruitt, who actually wrote a review of the work, which can be read on his blog.
Violence and intimacy. The violence and intimacy of this wrestling match. What did it sound like, how did it smell, the sweat of God and Jacob mingled in the dust? Those who are willing to pursue God and his blessing with such force receive honor from me. I don’t know what Jacob was thinking. But I know I wish I had the guts to engage my God with such an intertwined closeness. I despise the distance of religion. I use that distance to keep myself “safe” in this life, but at what cost. Even if I am annihilated, at least I may have a glimpse of His glory before I am withered back to dust. I want to know who He made me to be, why I am here, what my name is, even if I have to wrestle with one who could wither me with a glance. This story is a profound mystery to me, but I love it because God made himself vulnerable for the sake of this man whom He loved. I don’t get that, but it makes me love Him even more. I would rather be undone by the _ord than sit here safe and placid before my computer.
The banner has been present in my work for decades. I won’t go into all it’s permutations, but in this case I think of it as God’s declaration and promise over Jacob. It contains mysteries and words spoken in the Spirit from the beginning of creation until the end of days. They are blank, because, who am I to presume.
The curtains speak both of intimacy and story, as they are drawn back to reveal a glimpse of the man Jacob’s story and intimacy with his God. The curtains as well always recall to me the curtain that separated the most holy place of the temple, where the presence of God would come. Then when it was torn apart when Jesus was crucified; another time of violence and intimacy, when God made Himself vulnerable for those He loved.
The hands reveal the glory.
There is something important to me concerning of the knee of Jacob near the stone in the corner, but I do not understand what.
The nudity of Jacob, perhaps goes without saying. But nothing is hidden from God.
There used to be a couple of ladders toppling about in the struggle, recalling a previous encounter Jacob had, but I decided to paint over them.
There is more in this story, because it is God’s. But this is what I have painted. Please, be welcome to offer your insights, and I thank those of you who have risked writing comments and emails.
(Below is a progression of the painting)
Below is the drawing that came first, and a linocut based on the painting.