The diverse works of four contemporary Jesuit artists are currently being showcased at an exhibit at the University of San Francisco’s Manresa Gallery. “Spiritual Practices: Meditations on Faith” is an exploration of the visual art practices of Jesuit Fathers Arturo Araujo, Thomas Lucas, Trung Pham and Josef Venker.
The exhibition features a range of mediums — including prints, stained glass, paintings and sculptures — that explore and reveal contemporary issues through art. According to Jesuit Father James Hanvey, the Lo Schiavo Chair in Catholic Social Thought at the University of San Francisco who specializes in Ignatian spirituality, “Whatever their professional training as artists, their ‘eyes’ and their ‘hands’ have come to see and touch with the senses of the [Spiritual] Exercises.
“Each one of the artists in this exhibition has his own unique voice but each, in his own way, illuminates some aspect of our lives and our souls,” writes Fr. Hanvey in an essay on the exhibit.
Fr. Araujo, a Colombian Jesuit, currently serves as an assistant professor of fine arts at the University of San Francisco. His works in the exhibit focus on the landscape of “Cienega Grande,” a network of salt-water lagoons on Colombia’s northern coast. The landscape became a battlefield when violence erupted and left 60 dead by the paramilitary in 2000. “The same landscape serves me as a mythical place to seek reconciliation,” Fr. Araujo writes.
Fr. Lucas, a professor of art and architecture at the University of San Francisco, says that during his 35-year career as a liturgical artist, designer, curator and Jesuit, his work has been shaped by the symbol, myth and ritual of the Catholic tradition.
He uses everything from ancient materials to modern techniques. “The pieces reach back to traditions of the gothic glassmaker, the byzantine iconographer and Latin American baroque craftsfolk, but also are touched by the contemporary realms of found objects, electricity and computer aided design,” Fr. Lucas writes.
A professor of fine arts at Seattle University, Fr. Pham’s paintings explore the intimate relationship between mother and child. When his father was sent to a re-education camp after the Vietnam War, his grandmother and mother’s love became even more intense for Fr. Pham. “These two women not only loved me unselfishly but were also immeasurably strong, wonderfully intelligent and unbelievably hard working,” he recalls.
Fr. Venker, an assistant professor of fine arts at Seattle University, worked with found objects to find spiritual and religious meaning through ordinary and discarded things. “This search for God has become a key pursuit of the Jesuits to this day,” he explains.
Information about the exhibit, which runs through May 12, is available at the Manresa Gallery website.