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Brennen Reed’s “Meditation Man” and Brian Schmidt’s “Prayer” and “Christ and His Disciples in the Garden” have iconographic energy. Though they are without traditional imagery, the religious context of their abstract and contemporary figurativism beckons the viewer to interact with the spiritual practice of stillness.
Muted hues with Matisse-esque detailing cause the images to be not only visually complementary but also adequate vehicles for introspection. The rough lines test the senses while nondescript figures—detailed enough to know, but not to name—remain capable of taking on a personal likeness. These familiar figures float in petrified piety within their respective ethereal landscapes, drawing in the viewer. Within them introspection takes place as one partakes in the captured moments: Would I have fallen asleep in the garden? How do you know if you’re meditating correctly? Is it similar to prayer? And what even is prayer?
Like with an icon, one may find themselves reacting to this moment in ways unexpected. Perhaps anxiousness arises as one reckons with the portrayal of stillness, meanwhile fighting bouncing knees, wandering thoughts, and constant clock checks. Maybe one’s heart rate increases thinking about being suspended in prayer—waiting and waiting and waiting. Or, the thought of solitude causes the viewer to periodically peak over one’s shoulder rendering them incapable of total relaxation.
Yet, one may find themselves, despite their unease, being ushered into a moment of serendipitous contemplation. Like an icon, “Meditation Man,” “Prayer,” and “Christ and His Disciples in the Garden” depict religious imagery while also inducing spiritual practice. By pausing and allowing for interaction one enters holy ground. It’s not the colors or the composition (though they help) but the stillness of that moment that draws the viewer in; invited by something Other to participate in the mysteries of prayer. “Petition for us as we participate with you.”
—Taylor Lindquist, Visual Art Editor