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Art Show Reveals How Good Friday Leads To Renewal

The 10th annual “What’s So Good About Good Friday?” art show spotlights local artists’ impressions about Good Friday and their Christian faith. This year more than 60 artists will exhibit works centering on the idea that Jesus’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection accomplished something beautiful.

The show this weekend at Second Presbyterian Church in downtown Bloomington is organized by Art Circle of Bloomington-Normal, a faith-based group of artists and creative people.

Angel Ambrose from the Art Circle says the inspiration for the show originated from a downtown First Friday event that fell on Good Friday, a sacred holiday for her.

So she instead invited area artists to display their Good Friday-inspired art in her studio, which led to asking Second Pres to host the show the following year. Ambrose said the idea for the show theme came from a friend questioning the torturous death of Jesus being celebrated as “Good” Friday.

“And I said, for a Christ follower, that’s the beginning of a new and better story, which led me to the idea for the ‘What’s so Good About Good Friday?’ show,” said Ambrose from her Monroe Street studio in downtown Bloomington.

Putting the Cross in Cross-Pollination I will strengthen you and help you. Isaiah 41:10 by Michael Escoubas  When the brush and mix of colors by Monet or Cezanne inspire word-pictures from the poet’s pen— or the overtures of Beethoven or Mozart transport
The poetry on which Ambrose's artwork is based.

“So we invited artists to share either visually or verbally why Good Friday was a good thing for them. It’s the one show a year the Art Circle is involved with that actually has a theme,” said Ambrose.

That theme centers on devotion. The Art Circle isn’t looking for works that challenge believers, but is open to those who are still wrestling with the death and resurrection of Christ.

“I would say the majority of (artists) are those who have a very strong faith and this is something they want to do as an act of devotion,” said Ambrose.  

She’s excited about the number of artists participating this year and wanted to highlight the works of others during this visit, but did agree to talk first about her entry, which was displayed on a 6-foot easel in her second-floor studio.

“I created an image based off poetry by Michael Escoubas,” said Ambrose. “The interesting thing is that I had asked Michael to write something about cross-pollination that as artists … kind of like iron sharpens iron … we can encourage and cause each other to grow. And it turned into a beautiful piece of writing, but he asked me what sort of imagery would go with this?”

Not knowing, she wrestled with the idea for a while before imagining a cosmic, dark universe with emerging stars and one large 4-pointed star, as in the star of Bethlehem which announced the birth of Jesus, but the cross-like nature of the 4 points also foreshadowed the cross.

“And in my mind I saw almost a rip in the fabric of the heavenly realm with a convergence of whiter hot stars ripping the fabric in the form. Then out of that there is a spilling forth of wispy things and atmosphere, and little bits of light glitter and color,” said Ambrose.

She relates that image to the idea that when a person receives Christ, they get at least one spiritual gift.

Credit Janean Baird
"Light of Christ"

Another of the 65+ works on display this weekend is Janean Baird’s “Light of Christ.” The cut paper piece has two images: a wide metallic looking cross based on one found in Second Presbyterian Church in the upper left corner, with a wide layered white candle in the lower right, both on a gray textured background.  

“(The candle) has a multicolored flame burning brightly. And she used that imagery to basically honor Second Pres for hosting this show for 10 years. All three of us leaders (Ambrose, Baird, and LizBeth Ogiela-Scheck) had a strong feeling that this year, God was speaking to us about light, and about being light. So she had the concept of this candle,” said Ambrose.

She added that during Second Presbyterian’s Tenebrae service, there is a single candle lit during Lent. During Good Friday service, candles are extinguished one by one and people walk out of the sanctuary with the last lit candle, leaving total darkness.

“Symbolizing that Christ’s presence has left Earth and we have the empty, dark tomb for three days,” said Ambrose.

"Dusk - After the Storm" ink and clay board piece
Credit LizBeth Ogiela-Scheck
"Dusk - After the Storm"

LizBeth Ogiela-Scheck submitted a pair of ink and clay board “before and after” pieces. The first titled “Dusk – After the storm,” the second “Dawn – Regrowth.” The fallen tree in “Dusk” has a single branch to both the left and right of the trunk representing the cross. Ambrose isn’t sure of Ogiela-Scheck’s symbolic intentions for the jagged nature of the stump, but adds:

“Some people believe Christ’s life was taken from him, but Christ himself said he laid down his life. So it was part of the plan but he was murdered, so I believe the jaggedness of the tree being broken off speaks to that violence,” said Ambrose.

"Dawn – Regrowth" ink and clay board piece
Credit LizBeth Ogiela-Scheck
"Dawn – Regrowth"

The rising sun in “Dawn” has an obvious and understandable Easter morning feel compared to the coming darkness of “Dusk.”

“One of the major things we can look at as Christ followers is redemption,” said Ambrose. “That good things can come out of bad things. A plant dies, but the seed, like a kernel of corn, will produce another 600-700 kernels. But it has to go into the ground to create new life.”

The “What’s So Good About Good Friday Art Show” will be held at Second Presbyterian Church, 404 N. Prairie Street, in downtown Bloomington, Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A reception with refreshments will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m., which will include artists talking informally about their work. Art will remain on display throughout Easter weekend.

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Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.