Covenant Welcomes Herman

 Herman Portraits, photo by Abby Whisler

Herman Portraits, photo by Abby Whisler

On Mar. 2-3, Bruce Herman will be speaking in chapel to deliver this semester’s Academic Lecture Series. On Tuesday night, from 7:00 p.m to 9:00 p.m., Herman will also host a reception to close his art exhibition, which is currently on display in the library gallery.

Bruce Herman, 61, is the Distinguished Chair of the art department at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. According to his website, Herman works out of Gloucester, Mass. His artwork has been presented in more than 125 group exhibitions and more than 25 solo shows across the country. He has received international recognition, and his work is featured in the Vatican Museum of Modern Religious Art.

 Herman Portraits, photo by Abby Whisler

Herman Portraits, photo by Abby Whisler

Herman specializes in figurative painting and has depicted a wide range of subjects throughout his career. Much of his work has religious influences, including portraits of Old Testament figures, early Christian saints, and series featuring Golgotha and the Virgin Mary. Herman is also inspired by works of literature, such as T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets” or Frances Brabizon’s “Dream of Wet Pavements,” as well as the city of Cape Ann and the geography and architecture of Italy. Herman has painted the likenesses of close family and friends, and has even created work painted on a canvas made partially of 23 karat gold and silver leaves.

Regardless of what he is depicting, a distinctive trademark of Herman’s art is intentional interaction with culture and philosophical and religious thought. Herman’s online gallery includes an artist’s introduction to each series, which places the artist’s work in the context of his personal journey in life.

Herman is a mutual friend of both Professor Jeff Morton, Chair of the art department at Covenant, and Chaplain Lowe. Though this is the first time in recent years the Academic Lecture Series has invited an artist, Herman follows the tradition of speakers confidently able to relate their discipline to Christian academic inquiry. Morton explains that Herman’s gift lies in being able to “understand community” and talk about art in the context of academia, while presenting himself more as an artist than a theorist.

In a 2007 interview for Comment magazine, Herman said, “I’m not interested in making a cultural change. I’m interested in doing my work.” He later expounded that, “I see my work as a vehicle for relationships. A great painting isn’t great until viewers come and engage with it.”

Professor Morton shares this opinion, describing Herman’s work as provocative and demanding of active, personal engagement. Morton compares this relationship between a viewer and fine art to that between two human beings.

“Sometimes they are your friends, and sometimes, they bite back at us,” says Morton.

Of particular impact to Morton is how Herman synthesizes the material and the symbolic. Morton explains that by painting earthly works that have a deep “about-ness” of something spiritual, Herman affirms the artist as a co-creator in the image of God. Herman thus lives out the Creation mandate in our present time, and as Morton describes it, “bridges” Genesis and John 1:1-14, where “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

It may seem like a contradiction for Herman to personally answer questions about his art when it depends so much on an individual “dialogue,” but Herman’s artwork cannot be summarized into one “message.”

Herman’s work can be viewed on the second floor of the Kresge Memorial Library until Tues. Mar. 3, and also online at www.bruceherman.com.