The Question Insights From Response Readers
What work of art has changed your life?
The strain of music that stopped you in your tracks. The memory of a performance that kept your brain buzzing hours later. The painting that drew you in, as the museum crowd swirled around you. We asked you to tell us about the songs, words, pictures, and other things of beauty that changed you.
Here's what you said:
The violin is the work of art that has influenced my life. Choosing to play the violin changed my life over and over. I learned to persist and put in hard work in practice. I studied with Miss Winifred Leighton at SPC for about 10 years, beginning as a junior high student.
My daughter, Clara Warren Binnington ’96, who played viola and violin, graduated from SPU in music and teaching. Clara met her husband, Richard, while working on her viola-related master’s degree. My violin-playing grandchildren are a happy result. I’ve brought my work of art with me when I’ve traveled. It has touched emotions in times of grieving and times of celebrating.
Margaret “Peggy” Denniston Warren ’65
Asheville, North Carolina
American dancer/choreographer Alvin Ailey’s magnum opus, Revelations. It is the gospel story with a heartbeat.
I have seen it twice and hope to see it as many times as I can in this lifetime. It is the gospel story and my and many others’ personal story as a Christian portrayed through some of the top dancers in the world, set to Southern black spirituals.
One of my favorite parts is the pas de deux, “Fix Me Jesus.” The female dancer is a world-weary believer and the male is the Christ figure. What a wonderful, loving picture of our Father who carries us.
Brenna Thompson Arnesen ’04
My high school English teacher had a small library in her room that students could check books out from, and I discovered a book that caused me to commit a crime — I stuck the book into my English book (should I say that in a message to a college?) and read it in class! The book was by J.R.R. Tolkien — The Two Towers — and for almost 40 years I have been a reader of all types of books: history, science, fiction; so far, not any e-books.
The setting? The Big Red Island of Madagascar in the mid-1970s. The song? “How Firm a Foundation.” My husband, Lynn, and I were young missionaries and had just gone through a heart-wrenching experience. An “almost” adoption had just fallen through, and I was devastated. The soul-soothing words of this majestic song based on Isaiah 43 helped carry me through this dark time.
A couple of years later, we adopted a beautiful baby girl who is now a young woman with children of her own. Other dif!cult times have come along since then, and these words have often come to mind to remind me of God’s care and faithfulness. He is still my Foundation.
Gail Stark Lundquist ’65
I am stunned every time I stand in front of the painting “The Annunciation” by American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
It captures for me in a profound way what it must have been like when Mary was confronted by a visitor from the spirit world (Gabriel as a shaft of light) who suddenly appeared in her bedroom.
No Madonna halo around her head. No winged human-like image of the messenger from the presence of God, just a simple teenager sitting in disbelief, trying to comprehend what she was being told about her immediate future as an unmarried virgin, pregnant with the long-expected Messiah.
When I see it, I am reminded that there is a spirit world very different from the world in which we live, a spirit world in which we will someday also live.
Earl Cunningham CC ’63
Palm Beach Gardens,
T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. Eliot’s final and most beautiful work of poetry has led me through my life journey from the moment I read the beginning lines of “Burnt Norton” in a crowded bookstore in 1982, to later in life as a student at SPU, doing my capstone on Eliot with Gregory Wolfe, to England and Little Gidding, where I met and became friends with others who are passionate about Eliot’s work, and presently, to my attending grad school, with the desire to do my thesis on Eliot’s concept of divine love. T.S. Eliot’s poem and its re"ection on time, memory, and the meaning of liturgy have profoundly resonated throughout my life.
Cheri Wilke ’02
SPU Art Department
The work of art that has most significantly changed my life is the book Captivating, by Stasi & John Eldredge. I'm sure many people in the Christian community are familiar with or have even read at least one of the books in the Eldredges’ series (Wild at Heart, Waking the Dead, Love & War), but this book took on special meaning for me as a woman and follower of Christ. The book examines "the mystery of a woman's soul" by discussing how you engage in your faith, relationships and ministries while also discovering and staying true to your God-created being.
For me this book went beyond an encouraging read for the soul and instead challenged me to find foundational truth in who God is and who he created me to be; only then could I have lasting, healthy relationships and purposeful interaction in this world. I strongly believe this book has helped me to find a true, biblical sense of my self and know that it has and will continue to bless the hearts of many Christian women (and the men around them) by revealing God's desire to raise-up confident, female stewards who will in turn love and care for themselves, his people and his creation.
Linnea Post Todd ’09
The song "Here I am, Lord" has always been a tune that frequently finds its place in my mind but the words to the song have become more and more true as I've grown older and have found God's calling on my life. When I graduated from SPU in 2007 and moved to Los Angeles to teach in Watts, I constantly wondered if I was doing what I was called to do; what I was supposed to do. The lyrics to this song held a spot in my mind, and in my heart. "Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart." These lyrics remind me to hold the Lords people, in this case, my 8th graders, in my heart. To this day, "I will go, Lord, if you lead me."
Alisha Ragan ’07
My favorite painting is a little odd. It's called "Judith Slaying Holofernes," by Artemisia Gentileschi. She was around the same time Caravaggio was around, but didn't get as much recognition as him. I don't know why; maybe because she was a woman. Caravaggio painted the same scene, a grisly one to be honest: Judith, a beautiful widow chosen by God, is beheading the Assyrian general Holofornes, in order to save her town from his cruel reign. Gentileschi's version is far more interesting, in my opinion. It is such a scene of raw action; horror on the victim's face, blood running everywhere; and the best part? While Caravaggio's Judith has an expression of girly concern and distaste, Gentileschi's Judith is much stronger; her face seems to express frustration and determination, as if she's about to say, "Why won't this damn thing come off?!"
Allie Fraley ’08
SPU Communications Specialist
Brave on the Rocks by Sabrina Ward Harrison. Experiencing her book was a breath of fresh air. It was like sitting down with a dear friend, laughing and crying, and realizing we may be messy, but we're messy together.
BeckyJo Ambroso Bourgeois ’07
SPU Graphic Designer
“Peter and John, Running to the Tomb.” I finally got to see this incredible work personally at the Musee D'Orsay in Paris last fall — breathtaking. It so perfectly captures the mix of fear, hope, wonder, and confusion of these two dear men as they went looking for their Savior and friend.
Dianne Christensen Bratz ’77
“The Good Shepherd” by Bernhard Plockhorst.
LaVerne Blowers ’62
The Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Gardens, London, England, opened up for me a sense of wonder, amazement, imagination, beauty and delight. And a desire to just sit, stroke, centre down and experience as much peace as this world can give! I saw it first at age 11, then again on a SPU study tour in 1977. I believe it opened up seeing Christ in all and His creation and beauty.
Carolyn “Pixie” Paris Rowe ’78
Lynton, North Devon
“Girl in White” by Whistler. As a girl, I looked a lot like her, and a decorator friend even gave my parents a copy of it for that reason. In the meantime, I had an internship in Washington, D.C., and would take my lunch breaks to go to the National Gallery. I would stare at this painting but didn't know why. I suppose I saw myself as a famous artist could have painted me. Then I realized that all the people painted in the gallery were real people with real personalities: people whose clothes got sweaty, whose pets had to be fed, whose children had to be taken care of. It was a whole new look at art. The way I myself would want to paint. Real hearts with real feelings. Somehow Whistler was always able to do that.
Lydia D. Crouch
“Christ in Gethsemane” by Heinrich Hofmann, 1890.
In 1933, my Free Methodist Church in Brooklyn, New York, presented me with my first Bible. Just inside the cover was the beautiful Hofmann painting, “Christ in Gethsemane.” The image presented in that reproduction is most likely the mental image I carry when Christ or Jesus is mentioned today.
It wasn’t until I visited the Riverside Church in Manhattan where the original painting is displayed that I realized the full impact of this painting. You step into a small, semi-darkened room to view this specially illuminated art work. In this quiet little room the picture “speaks.” And, imagine, you are in the same room with the original masterwork! No guards, no docents, just a kneeling rail should you want to reflect.
Much later in life a sabbatical leave took our family to Manhattan. Our church away from home was the Riverside Church. During our 14-month stay, it was not difficult to find time to slip into that little stone room. The Heinrich Hofmann painting always inspires. That inspiration continues — we are told that this painting is one of the most copied paintings in the world.
Tom Cooper ’51
It was the sculpture, the Pieta.
Sharon Doran Krause ’67
Ivan Albright's painting, "That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door)." It hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago, and I think the title indicates the theme. But, oh, that door, the flowers, and the withered hand speak volumes.
Harry Frudd ’52
The painting “Peter Denies Christ” by C. Hakrach. Studied it in “Religious Art” under Professor Don Demaray at SPC. Christ is ascending the stairs glancing back down at Peter, who is hanging his head and leaning his hand against the cold stair wall. Also, the poem “Our Walk” that appeared in the SPC Tawahsi 1957:
Men may misjudge thy aim
Think they have cause to blame
Say thou art wrong
Keep on the quiet way
Christ is the judge, not they
Fear not Be strong
Pauline Woolsey Round ’60
When I was a child I viewed art in different ways than I do now. I would see only the surface, but never go deeper. One piece that really speaks to this is the famous (or infamous) No.5 by Jackson Pollock, which looks on the surface like a splash of chaotic colors, but when seen in the vein of the artist's psyche and soul, reveals a deeper meaning. Much abstract art is like this, and there is a true shattered puzzle piece like feel to it. In the abstract you have to seek truth, rather than see it portrayed right before you as if you do not have the ability to seek truth, and find it in beauty.
But what changed art for me? I think it was a piece by John Ruskin, an essay on his reflections on gothic architecture, in which he wrote that in form and nature art is a shattered majesty, an imperfect representation of God and virtue. When it is ordered and defined it loses it's humanity, but when creative, even chaotic, it finds something more divine. The imperfection of us reflected God more than our not so lofty attempts at perfection. It also changed how I saw people, as once I had merely seen them as creations of God, I saw them now, each and every one as the art of God, His paint strokes, His sculpture and His meaning, casting meaning and value on His world as lavishly as Pollock threw his paint left and right. And in that is hope, in that is beauty, in that is art.
The painting by Rembrandt, “The Descent from the Cross,” located at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, has had a profound influence on my life. In 1994, I traveled to Russia on behalf of the SPU School of Education, and saw this painting. I have always struggled with the idea that God had to sacrifice his son, Jesus, for me. It has been a gift that I intellectually knew I needed, but it has felt like an emotional burden too large to carry. In this painting, where Christ is being removed from the cross, the man who is holding Christ’s body is thought to be a self-portrait by Rembrandt. In his face I see acceptance of the preciousness of his Christ. I see sorrow and joy of the one who knows and accepts that Jesus paid his debt. In the moments I first witnessed this painting, I knew that I wanted to live a life of acceptance of this gift in the same way.
Ginger Collar MacDonald ’74
Federal Way, Washington
The Canadian artist Bill Reid's work: “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii” and others.
George Kupfer ’59
North Saanich, BC
Sounds funny, but playing chamber music has changed my life. It has propelled me to play the violin and to listen in brand new ways. There's no selfish — or timid — playing if you go about this right and it builds incredible relationships of trust and support when things go well. Next time you watch a chamber music group, pay attention to their eye contact, breathing, and movement. This is profound stuff! For me it's somehow very intimate and private but also public and social.
SPU Communications Specialist
After five years as a residence life coordinator at SPU (in Hill and Moyer 88-93) I began a small business with master artist Julie London. During that time, Julie produced a small sculpture of Mother Teresa which I later titled, "Remember the Poor." That little sculpture — replicated thousands of times via our studio — has introduced me to Mother Teresa's family and friends, and in its production stages, put me square in the face of global trade issues, environmentally sound packaging solutions, and present day concerns with human trafficking and "made in America" conversations. Engaged, changed, and continually altered, this little sculpture — quietly and unexpectedly — has become a life teacher.
The Crucifixion by Stanley Spencer.
SPU Professor of Art
The book that changed my life was The Once and Future King by T.H. White, which I read in eighth grade. It was the first book that really made me care about characters who went on to do Very Bad Things. White's book is brilliant in that it takes fairytales, archetypes, and uses them to unseat our fantasies and idealism. The story follows King Arthur from boyhood through his early reign and eventual unraveling at the hand of his best friend and son. It wasn't until I read this book that I understood that people could be deeply bad and still make me weep for them — and that, in fact, I was one of these bad people, a fact shown in my complicit sympathy for Lancelot's adultery. The Once and Future King showed me a world undone by human cruelty and suffering, but laid bare the fragile hearts beneath and showed me that everyone has their own pain. A heavy message for a 14-year-old, but none too early, it hit me right about the time you realize the world is bigger than yourself.
Posted October 20, 2011, 6:33 p.m.
I first encounter the George Segal sculpture "Woman on a Bed" (translated from German) in an art book I used in my German classes in St. Radegund bei Graz in Austria (Seattle University program abroad) in 1975. At that point it was owned by Mr. & Mrs. Charles B. Wright. Later I saw it in person at the Seattle Art Museum. What staggered me perhaps more than the artwork itself was seeing a piece of sculpture from Seattle pictured in a German art history textbook, printed in Germany, being used by a Seattleite in a German class in a small town in southeastern Austria! Also, at other times actually seeing art in person by artists I'd only heard and read about
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