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The Real Transformers

The Real Transformers
Spring 2010 | Volume 33, Number 1 | Campus

20 Years of Art and Faith, 10 at SPU

Image Anniversary

Gregory Wolfe and editor Mary Kenagy Mitchell
Publisher Gregory Wolfe and editor Mary Kenagy Mitchell in Image’s new office space, a house on Nickerson Street.

In a packed reading room at Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Company, Gregory Wolfe, publisher of the literary and arts journal Image, read a recent letter in which a reader noted that the publication makes him “a better human being.”

Image celebrated its 20th anniversary with a book-length anthology, Bearing the Mystery: Twenty Years of Image (Eerdmans, 2009).The volume is a collection of visual art and writing “informed by — or grappling with — religious faith” that has appeared in the journal since 1989.

Bearing the Mystery includes selections from some of the finest work Image has published in two decades, with fiction, poetry, and essays by more than 70 writers, including Annie Dillard, Richard Rodriguez, Denise Levertov, Kathleen Norris, and Ron Hansen. Full-color plates showcase visual art by more than 20 artists, such as Makoto Fujimura, Barry Moser, and Seattle Pacific University faculty members Laura Lasworth and Roger Feldman.

Poet Luci Shaw, an Image board member and author of Harvesting Fog (Pinyon Publishing, 2010), calls Bearing the Mystery — and Image’s 20 years — “a remarkable achievement.”

“The journal is challenging and profoundly influencing the culture, all the time holding to high spiritual values so that art’s most life-​giving aspects are demonstrated and embodied,” Shaw says. This vision of art embodying faith has resonated with many readers. Among hundreds of literary journals published every year, many of which only print one or two issues, the quarterly Image continues to inspire a fiercely loyal readership, with nearly 5,000 paying subscribers. Best-selling novelist Bret Lott calls it “the most meaningful literary journal being published today.”

For the past 10 of its 20 years, Image has been housed on the SPU campus, where Wolfe is writer-in-residence and director of the University’s master of fine arts in creative writing program. Image’s presence at Seattle Pacific has brought renowned authors and artists to campus and offered students connection with a vibrant, nationwide community of artists.

“For me as a teacher, Image has been a godsend,” says Doug Thorpe, professor of English. “It provides internships for English majors, and it draws prospective students who recognize that the journal provides tremendous resources not available on any other Christian campus in the country.”

Work first published in Image has appeared in The Best American Essays, The Best American Poetry, and The Best American Spiritual Writing. Image has also been nominated by Utne Reader for an Alternative Press Award for Spiritual Coverage and featured on The Writer’s Almanac radio show, hosted by Garrison Keillor.

For all that artists and critics have said about Image, the best evidence of its influence is in the enthusiasm of its subscribers. “Your publication saved my faith in the possibility of the recovery of the religious imagination and truth in art,” one reader wrote in a letter to the editor. “And, while I’m at it, it quite likely saved my faith.”

—Photo by Luke Rutan

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