Visual artist John Bergmeier uses the physical layers in this mixed media art piece to explore the layers of history, personal connection, and exploration of his faith associated with Haggai 2.
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1 In the seventh month , in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying, 2 Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying, 3 Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD ; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD , and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts: 5 According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. 6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; 7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. 9 The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.
10 ¶ In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month , in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, 12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. 13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. 14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD ; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. 15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD : 16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures , there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD . 18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid, consider it . 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you .
20 ¶ And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying, 21 Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; 22 And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD , and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts.
Intent upon connecting the visual arts to God’s Word, I am inspired by various verses and Biblical stories. I think it’s perfectly acceptable and God-pleasing to produce artwork that is simply inspired by faith: but also that to teach, preach and share the gospel is the highest good. My work typically includes imagery from nostalgic sources vindicating my personal memories and wistful emotions. Multi-layered, not only with antique line art and purposeful texts but also with the colors themselves. This type of layering and use of multiple images lends itself to the idea of a confusing and complicated life this side of eternity, but still looking forward to “feel the Son’s embrace.”
I have a standard palette of colors that I rely on for most of my mixed media art pieces and prints. These also are intended to imply this vintage feel; as if the colors are pulled directly from my Aunt Erna's living room in Beatrice, Nebraska. A personal favorite is a red-brown that is a mix of the red of Harry Lottman's discarded Velvet tobacco can and the burgundy of the rusting farm implement behind his barn. Lastly, in addition to these solid colors, I frequently use metallic inks, especially gold, to imply a religious and heavenly connection to the overall narrative.
This second book of Haggai (one of the twelve minor prophets of the Old Testament) contains 38 verses and was written around 520 BC. From the beginning of my work on this visual art piece I have tried to portray an "Old Testament" aesthetic and sensibility. The materials and imagery that I have selected are meant to represent the various verses that are key components to God's Word here written by Haggai.
I struggle to understand how it must have been to be an Old Testament believer, still looking forward to the coming Savior as opposed to our lives now looking back at what has taken place with Christ's plan of salvation for us. In the second chapter of Haggai his prophecies include Christ as the descendant of Zerubbabel from the family of David: He shall soon come, "a comfort of all nations." This lineage is represented by the length of sinew that runs along the top of the piece.
One can take these 3 essentials from Haggai 2:
- be strong,
- work diligently
- and do not fear.
We are still encouraged to maintain a strength which is required to overcome life with a sinful flesh and a fear that can cripple and hamstring this effort without the power and courage from God. The "yawning" people of Israel at this time had become distracted and had lost focus on the continued rebuilding of the second new temple that God had commanded them to build. The musical notes and bright colors used here characterize this almost festive attitude which resulted in an unfinished temple. The people were also using their gold and silver for other purposes rather than for God's work.
John Bergmeier is an American artist who received his BA in Studio Arts from Hastings College, Hastings, Nebraska and his MFA in Printmaking and Drawing from Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas. Bergmeier has been employed as a Commercial Designer and Design Manager in the decorative films industry since 1992, and has continued to create artwork throughout this time in his home studio. He has exhibited internationally and has also taught studio art and graphic design classes at various colleges. He is currently working on prints and mixed media pieces in the studio space shared with his wife Carla in Waxhaw, North Carolina.