Behold All Things New

visual art in response to issues of concern


Stone Sculpture, James Zingarelli

A Human Presence
Rituals of human existence are part of a greater sacrament. Biblically speaking, we have the garden call to tend, and in some responsible way, to transform. Calvin Seerveld wrote, " Art is one way for men and women to respond to the Lord's command to cultivate the earth ... art is neither more nor less than that. "As an artist therefore, I have a responsibility to the culture I live in while not being subject to it's whims. I have been carving, drawing and painting figures, torsos specifically, male and female. But why a torso? It exists without a face or head so as not to confuse it with portraiture, no limbs so as to make it a single volume form, compact and essential, keeping the integrity of its stoniness, like the mountain, like the pebble. It also references its ancient counterparts which although are fragments of their original form, still are able to affirm the humanity and beauty that belies them. I work and rework a similar figurative motif in an attempt not to perfect but to proliferate, like seed planted for a later harvest.

It is a journey "by stages" even as Abraham moved across the Negeb (Genesis 12:9). Every work is a prayer of thanks, an assertion/affirmation of the present, a short-wave means for speaking with both the past and the future and a hope to be relevant to one's own age. Every work too is a first edition informed by ancestral stories, meta-narratives that still resonate with comedy and tragedy, romance and loss, tears and humor. I'm aiming for an honesty here. I am not trying to be a contemporary priest of the culture, simply trying to make the work speak. And speak to what, or to whom? To speak through materials that are like us: the stuff of the earth, straining to reach upward and out of its own weight and mass. Nicholas Wolterstorff said, " If you and I carve wood, apply paint to canvas, pile stone on stone, or inscribe marks on paper, we are dealing with things which bear to us the most intimate of relations."

Each torso wears a garment, something more akin to a t-shirt and jeans than classical robes. The intent however is the same. Clothes are a covering, protection, first as leaves, skins and fur, the wool of sheep, full buds of cotton, pulled and paired down to their simplest lines and woven in grids, braids, knitted into patterns and later dyed because we cannot live without color. And what is it like to be clothed? Warm, secure, comfortable. Clothed, shod, fitted, buttoned, tailored, zipped. It is the language of the tailor's threads, crafted and holding the planes in place under tension and release that I am interested in, not the language of fashion's flippant trendiness. Terms such as "cut" and "fit" apply to the human form that will wear these garments. And like a river wrapping or the way branches entwine, the cloth folds and unfolds, wrinkles and flattens into a pressed surface. The planes act with our twist, our change, our growth. They take on the human form, worn and warmed with our mass and symmetry.

The Biblical allusions from Paul's letter to the Colossians is particularly poignant here. "The new self" is transformative as one "puts on" the stuff of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, most of all love "which binds everything together in perfect harmony." What more fitting image of this incarnational life that moves and matures in such a set of threads as these?

James Zingarelli
Gordon College
Barrington Center for the Arts
255 Grapevine Road
Wenham, Massachusetts 01984
(978) 927-2300 x4822

© 2005 The Episcopal Church & Visual Arts