Karen Swenholt’s sculpture explores the divergence of skepticism and faith, love and truth, those who belong to faith communities and those who have been hurt by them in response to Ezekiel 36:26.
Karen Swenholt, Heart for a Stone detail
Artist Curated by
26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.
The young girl falls back, her torso nearly horizontal to the ground as if on an operating table. The stone being removed will be replaced by a heart of flesh.
Much necessary good has come from Feminism but there is an increasingly well-accepted version that teaches the mythology of the oppressive patriarchy. By its tenets, all faith is suspect and irrational; its primary purpose: to control, especially control women. For its adherents, Christianity is on the list of topics not to be discussed. Religion has become a concept never to be entertained or given a moment’s regard, except as part of the story of oppression.
This ideology is not irrationally based. Women are on the list of those who have not been treated by faith communities and their leaders as Jesus treated them. The LBGT community has a similar closed mindset supported by painful experiences of exclusion and oppression.
While I respect the reasons for this intolerance of faith, the loss for those individuals who have erected an ideological wall between themselves and God is profound. I remember when my mind would not permit the possibility of God’s existence because of an Atheism which I picked up from my culture without much question or discernment. Those days were hard. This sculpture is a prayer for those earnest young minds quick set in concrete.
My first Heart for a Stone was inspired by an older man who had been deeply involved with crime and substance abuse. He was transformed when he met God. His earnestness, gentleness, kindness and concern for others seems a true wonder compared to tales of his predatory past. But even the very young can acquire the heart of stone, not from heroin and poverty but from a closed mind—set too early—that rules the heart rigidly. We all risk such ossification when we neglect Paul’s admonition that without love, our ideological constructions and actions flowing from them are a clanging cymbal. When we forget Jesus’ love for these people groups, noise may be all they can hear.
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.