7) Restoring Our Art-Full Church | Alice Vander Vennen

Why doesn’t “church” spring to mind when one says, “Art?” After all, visual art was literally central to life for the ancient Israelite and of vital importance to the early churches. Mark gallops across history from the catacombs of the earliest Christians to the Reformation in Europe  to the North American Evangelical movement in search of how art became a lost art, and calls for the restoration of art in our churches and of artists as indispensable to the life of faith.

Then Mark sits down with Alice Vander Vennen, an accomplished artist and art teacher with an illustrious, 30-year career to the present. 

Her artist’s statement: “I work with multiple materials, such as fabrics, branches, wire, copper, paper and ceramic shards, creating an assemblage as part of a visual language suggesting a story. The narrative speaks of gathering the work of divergent cultures, histories and generations. Materials from around the world, created by many hands, are represented in a single multimedia assemblage. Fragile branches may be used as framing devices; tapering willow twigs and knotty grape vine tentacles are bent as if resisting the interstitial pull of perhaps a hundred different textiles, each attached with thread, strings, wire and weighted with smooth stones or other found objects. The assembled sculptural form may be reminiscent of a quilt, a canoe or a totem. I strive to have the materials form a new voice of a gathered people, a celebration of the human spirit in relation to its Creator, whether from secret spaces or the most flamboyant expressions.” 

Alice tells us about the power of found objects and used fabrics, how they speak to us about human stories, and how when things come together, they speak in exciting and new ways. She talks about her endeavour to bring women’s stories in particular to the surface, visually shedding light on the lives of women that are so often drowned out my the louder exploits of men. Wood and stone hold mysteries in their unknown histories as well, and Alice talks about how even unknown story has power. Mark asks her about the message of her art and Alice discusses the interplay between creating meaning in art and imposing meaning upon it through one’s own experience. She notes how the supportive people in her life have been instrumental in making sure her art got out into the world, and finally appeals to God-people to hold art more centrally in their lives.

Alice holds workshops in Toronto, participates in exhibitions such as the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, and gives talks and displays her art all over Ontario. To discover her work, buy her books, and find our where she’ll be next, click the website below.


Totem Stone