Visual faith practices look different for each person - it might be coloring a prayer card, creating a margin in your Bible, or adding a word to your devotional Bible. Artist Rachel Hinz creates visual faith in a big way with her abstract paintings, inspired by Scripture and deep with meaning. Her first large scale painting was “Redemption”, completed in 2006 when she was a student at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This was the beginning of her journey into using Bible verses for the basis of abstract work. We’ve asked Rachel to share her process with us here:
My senior art exhibition, titled "Meditation," featured abstract paintings and other mediums. In each of my paintings, I begin with a Bible verse and - using color, composition, and movement - I proceed to paint the verse. By keeping the subject abstract, I want the viewer to spend time meditating on the verse. "Redemption" is based on 1 Peter 1:18-19- "For you know that it was not with silver or gold that you were redeemed...but with the precious blood of Christ" and also Psalm 103:4- "[God] who redeems your life from the pit, and crowns you with love and compassion."
Just like in Bible journaling, I'm picking out the words in the verses (redeemed, blood, pit, etc.) and thinking: what colors would these be? Is the action vertical (God and us) or horizontal (between us and others)? What is changing in the verse and how can I show this? Finally, I love using scale! My paintings are meant to surround the viewer so that they can get the best sense of this visual experience.
In "Redemption," the blood is red and the darkness of the piece is the pit. God's love as seen in the blood of Jesus descends down from the top of the piece and scoops in, out, and along the bottom of the piece. We are "bought back" and returned to the Father above. This happened in Christ's sacrifice, but we can also look at the picture of eternity and how we are daily renewed- hence a subtle infinity symbol that is created in the center of the composition.
After finishing “Redemption,” I was interested in further exploration of color and their transitions. This time, I was captured with the words of the Apostle John, who writes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…Through him all things were made…In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. We have seen his glory…” (John 1:1-5, 14b, NIV-Bible).
The idea of God being eternal - without beginning or end - and the imagery of “the light shines in the darkness” are both reflected in the circular shape in the middle of the canvas. In considering how color might cause a movement and dimension, allowing the viewer to interact within the space, the color scheme contains two complimentary color poles - yellow and purple. Blue and orange were also a part of the transition, with green - symbolic of the idea of “In him was life” connecting the warm lights to the color darks. This full transition of color perhaps starts in the circular center and begins spiraling out. Such a movement is due to the transition of colors and the sole hard line that divides the “light” from the “dark” on the right side of the center color. Here is the highest contrast. On the other side of this otherwise symmetrical composition, the light yellows and oranges blend into a green that stretches like a wave into the sea blues. These darken as they spin towards the bottom of the canvas. Like “Redemption,” this darker bottom composition is symbolic of the world, but also gives the piece a platform on which to enter. Whether the light is shining out or receding into the space in “Light” is for the viewer to experience.
The third and final painting of the “Meditation” exhibit is “Humility.” The focus of this painting comes from Philippians 2:6-9 (NIV): “[Jesus]: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God…but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name…”
There are many actions occurring in this selection. However, similar to “Redemption,” the movement is very much that of coming down to earth, dying, and then being exalted to the highest place. Like “Light,” this motion is also very circular, coming down and returning up into the simple form of a line in the center of the canvas.
On the left side of the piece, soft lines and transitions force a descending movement and yet, also the motion of lying down. Towards the bottom, the lines begin to fan out into the darker greens, looking almost like roots - stabilizing the viewer. As it continues up the right, the lines have twisted back, behind the initial line, and then upwards again. This motion is much more direct as the lines are much more vertical. At this point, the greens escape into the gold and white hues. Although the lines are slightly different in direction, the transitions are symmetrical. Still, the green remains as the overwhelming hue, symbolizing the life of Christ who, laid himself down for us in death and then was raised and exalted. Upon further study of the composition, the greens fill over half of the composition, implying a cross composition with the center line. The title “Humility” then, goes to emphasize this theology and focus of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.
We asked Rachel what advice she would share with anyone about using abstract painting as a “tool” for visual faith sharing. Here’s what she said:
I would invite anyone interested in painting to consider using it as another tool for connecting to God and His Word. I would especially encourage people to consider working abstractly- it's SO freeing!! Not only can you shed off the pressures of making something look "real" or "representational," but it allows you to just let something as simple as one of God's gifts of color be a way that you can meditate on His Word and how it relates to your life.
Another tip: go BIG! Don't let a big space/canvas/paper intimidate you! Use your hands... get moving... God made art to be so therapeutic.
Your painting can tell a beautiful visual story of a time when you were very present with God in mind, body, and spirit. I can guarantee that such a painting will be impactful not just to the creator, but anyone who sees it. Add an original painting to the visual legacy that you leave, which reminds me of the theme verse for my senior show, "Meditation" :
"Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will mediate on your wonderful works."
[Rachel Hinz resides in Ypsilanti, Michigan - but is in the midst of moving to St. Louis, Missouri! She is a wife and stay-at-home mom to three children. A former Art and Theology teacher, she is a visual artist, and her artwork has been shown in both local and international exhibitions. She also leads her local MOPS Bible Study that incorporates visual faith, creating teaching materials for that group. She believes in the power of art to convey Truth.]