Through folktales, songs, and visual artwork, artists in countless cultures around the world have incorporated animals to offer critiques of human character and relationships. These stories supply just enough imaginative distance to allow people to find themselves in the narrative. The Bible and historic Christian art are filled with images of animals as stand-ins for humanity, as well.
With this exhibit, Mark Sprinkle continues this tradition of using animal imagery to convey larger concepts of the relationship between God and his people. As a boy growing up on a farm in south Texas, Sprinkle noted that scenes of chickens, ducks, and dogs evoked modern parables. Near Sprinkle’s current home in Virginia, modern shepherds regularly bring dozens of breeds of sheep from all parts of the globe to the state fair.
In the world of stock shows, there is a process by which a shepherd makes his sheep ready to be brought before the judge. Fitting includes several stages of washing, combing, shearing, and finally cloaking the carefully groomed sheep. The shepherd is the one who does all of the work required for the sheep to be judged and found worthy. These paintings offer a second story line, reminding us that the Good Shepherd submitted to judgment by his own flock, becoming the sacrificial lamb for all.
The exhibition is on display in the BGC Museum Sacred Arts Gallery June 10 through October 26, 2014.
Mark Sprinkle is an artist, author, and cultural historian, and formerly served as Senior Fellow of Arts and Humanities for The BioLogos Foundation. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Georgetown University, he received his MA and PhD in American studies from the College of William and Mary, where he studied how artworks embody complex relationships in different cultural contexts. Since 1996, he has been an independent artist and frame maker, regularly speaking on the creative practice as a means to cultural mediation and renewal.
Sprinkle’s work as a writer, editor, and curator helps to bring the reconciling power of metaphor to various “non-art” areas of society, especially at the intersection of modern science and historic Christian belief. He demonstrates that artistic practices constitute a vital component in our public conversations because our creative and subjective reasoning is as much a distinctively human capacity as is our ability to reason objectively and with mathematical precision.