Sculptor Karen Swenholt brings her personal faith journey and an appreciation of the life and work of Edvard Munch to her reading of Zechariah 7:11 to produce this emotive work, "Bookends."
Bookends, "Radiohead" (detail)
Bookends, "Not Listening" (detail)
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11 But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.
For me, life was a cacophony before I believed in God. It did not make sense. It was noise. I could not hear the melody lines, the beat, the structure—the point of it all—until I met God. Then harmony and peace were possible for me.
With Bookends, I analogize God and His word to music. Radiohead hears God, responding to His music rapturously, snapping his fingers and gesturing with his right arm in response to beat and melody. Not Listening stops his ears and turns away. One would think the joy of Radiohead’s response to the music might intrigue his brother, but not so. Ironically Not Listening stops his own ears, claiming Radiohead also hears nothing and accuses Radiohead of delusion for apprehending the existence of God. In the world of Not Listening, Radiohead is mad.
As I worked onNot Listening, I was struck that his facial structure resembles that of the figure in The Scream by Edvard Munch. Munch’s parents were committed Christians. His mother died young of tuberculosis, leaving him a beautiful plea/prayer in writing that her child find God. Munch’s early adulthood was very painful with bouts of drinking that verged on madness. He painted The Scream during that time. What is The Scream afraid to hear? That a God that controls the universe let his mother die? Isn’t it safer then, not to believe in God at all? That is why the torso of Not Listening is slashed. It reveals the man is hollow of life. He has been wounded. May God have mercy and reveal himself to the Not Listenings in the world and heal their wounds.
Karen Swenholt is a figurative sculptor who lives and works in Northern Virginia. After attending MICA and California College of the Arts, she continued studies at New York City’s New York Studio School and the Art League in Virginia. Influences from the West Coast’s Bay Area Figurative Movement combined with the emotional power of abstract expressionism from her East Coast studies and origins to form the foundation of Swenholt’s work today. The rough painterly surfaces of her sculptures contrast with their grace, conveying emotion and movement.
Karen Swenholt is presently the artist in residence at Convergence in Alexandria, Virginia. Her work can be found in many public and private collections including Cairn University in Philadelphia, Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C and churches across the U.S. and abroad.