Unlike the colorful picture books of biblical stories from childhood, Hillsdale College’s “Revealed” art display is not family friendly.
Created in lithograph, woodcut, monoprint, and linocut, “Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grownups,” is a collection of full-size prints that depict biblical stories. The exhibit is on display in the Fine Arts Building from Sept. 4 to Oct. 9. The prints have been designated “for grownups” because there are some depictions of uncensored violence, sexuality, and other mature concepts found in the Bible.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Roxanne Kaufman, who was in charge of picking the display, said “Revealed” is a “beautiful representation of how many voices can work together to tell a complete story.”
“As a Christian, I know how powerful the word of God is,” Kaufman said in an email. “‘Revealed’ takes the stories of the Bible from black and white pages of text to authoritative black and white images. Many of the prints hold you captive as a viewer, insisting that you look deeper, and that is the same effect the Bible has on many Christians.”
The “Revealed” display is part of a traveling exhibit called “Christians in the Visual Arts,” or CIVA. It “covers the entire story of Redemption,” according to Kaufman, from the fall of man to the final revelation. The display includes the stories of Abraham and Isaac, Jael, Daniel, Jesus and the feeding of the five thousand, and the crucifixion. Kaufman said she has a “wide scope” when it comes to art she enjoys.
“The day I placed the show, students were expressing how much they liked the work,” Kaufman said. “They like it because of the techniques and the images themselves. The art was doing what it needs to do in an academic setting. It was creating reactions!”
The CIVA site writes that the book “shows the Bible in all its raw, violent, and beautiful glory,” trading fluffy and light depictions for realism.
“‘Revealed’ sets out to crush any notion that the Bible is a safe, inspirational read,” reverend and author J. Mark Bertram attests in his review of the collection. “Instead the artwork here […] takes a warts-and-all approach to even the most troubling passages, trading well-meaning elision for unvarnished truth.”
Seniors Emily Ju and Jenny Buccola, who viewed the display recently, said the artwork was beautiful and symbolic. Ju said she enjoyed most the depiction of Jael, which stood on its own as an Old Testament story.
“It was just the plain Old Testament story, with no, ‘this is how it relates to the story of the New Testament,’” Ju said. “It was just like, ‘she killed this guy while his mother thought he was out raping women. He was just lying there with a stake through his skull.’ I was like, ‘that’s really neat.’”
Buccola said she loves the concept of focusing on less child-friendly stories because it can finally encompass the Bible as a whole.
“I think in order to make the Bible more appropriate for kids, you have to leave so much out and simplify so much and only tell certain stories,” Buccola said. “It’s so censored that it’s not really the Bible anymore. I think if you’re going to read the Bible the way it was meant to be read, as a history log of God’s covenant, you have to read it as an adult and be willing to swallow some really tough stories.”
Kaufman said she hopes the display prompts visitors to look deeper into themselves and their own stories of redemption.
“Our pasts are not to be covered up or forgotten but learned from,” Kaufman said. “We cannot reveal who we truly are if we do not continue to look at where we have been.”