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By Jim Cornelius
News Editor 

Art installation recounts story of Jesus

 

Last updated 12/6/2022 at Noon

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Sisters artist Jim Horsley has painted landscapes, Western scenes, and military-inspired works. Now he has embarked on a magnum opus project that brings together his passion for painting with the Christian faith that underpins his life.

In collaboration with his pastor, Steve Stratos of Sisters Community Church, Horsley is creating an art installation titled “Reflections of Jesus,” which will hang at the church. In an overview of the project, Horsley explained:

“The collection when complete will consist of about 50 original oil paintings depicting key moments in the life of Jesus as described in the four Gospel accounts in the New Testament. Steve is providing the related pastoral commentaries, which add a key application perspective to each painting.”

The first phase of the project is now on public display at the church and the church will host a Fireside Chat about the story depicted in the 12 paintings on December 16. A tabletop book, with pages that include an image of each painting, the related Bible text, Stratos’ commentary, and an artist’s note, will accompany the displayed art.

The first phase displayed is fitting for the Christmas season.

“The initial 12 paintings are focused on critical moments around the birth of Jesus,” Horsley told The Nugget.

The paintings range in size from eight-by-eight inches to 16-by-16.

This project is now the focus of all of Horsley’s efforts. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Horsley stopped displaying his work in galleries.

“I pulled out of the galleries and I found that most of what I was doing was commissions and gifts for people,” he said.

He felt he needed a stronger purpose.

“I got into this art business to paint paintings that mean something and have a purpose,” he said.

The artist was stirred by the work of 19th-century French painter James Tissot, who traveled several times to the Holy Land and devoted his later career to 365 paintings relating the life of Jesus. He decided to embark on a more modest but similarly inspired project — and Stratos was enthusiastic about the idea. He felt that the accessible visual presentation was an effective and nondogmatic way to tell a story in which he finds profound beauty.

“This presents the beauty of the gospel and who God really is,” Stratos said. “I thought it provided both an experience and some observation.”

Stratos’ commentary reflects on not only the biblical and historical context of the images, but also the way they can inform contemporary lives.

“I just see the beauty of the person of Jesus and the way he shows up in my life and in other people’s lives,” he said.

Horsley and Stratos both cited the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem as an opportunity to reflect on the individual journey that each of us is on. Both men seek to show the presence of God on that journey.

“He’s involved in our journey, even when we don’t perceive his presence in the moment,” Stratos said.

The paintings and the commentary are crafted to adhere as closely to the Gospel accounts and the known historical record as possible — in Stratos’ words, to be “authentic to the story line and person of Jesus.”

Much of what we understand of the familiar Christmas story is an accretion of myth over centuries. For example, Horsley notes that the Christmas carol “We Three Kings of Orient Are” mythologizes the story of the magi or wise men who ventured to Bethlehem to see Jesus.

“Nobody ever called them kings,” Horsley said.

And Jesus wasn’t born in a manger — at least not a purpose-built structure.

“It’s pretty clear when you look at scripture, it was most likely a cave,” Horsley said.

In both image and commentary, Horsley and Stratos are striving for realism.

“We’re just trying to paint this reality as honestly as we can,” Horsley said.

Stratos notes that the project seeks to address the question that Jesus once put to his disciples: “Who do men say that I am?”

In doing so, the artist and the pastor hope to reach beyond the church community to the community at large, in an accessible way without “pomp and circumstance” — including those who do not have a particular faith.

“It was our hope that we could present a Jesus that we have known in our lives — that at one time we didn’t know, too,” Stratos said. “I hope people will be able to pursue their own answer to the question, ‘Who do men say that I am?’”

“Reflections of Jesus” is a passion project for Horsley, not a commercial endeavor.

“The paintings will not be available for sale individually,” he noted. “I’m open to discussion with anyone who might like a commissioned version of any of the paintings; a portion of the sale proceeds from any display-related art or future sales of the tabletop book will be donated to Sisters Community Church and/or Hope Africa.”

For information about purchase of related art prints or paintings, contact Jim Horsley at 206-890-3008 or email [email protected]

The Fireside Chat will be held at Sisters Community Church, 1300 McKenzie Hwy., at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, December 16. For information call 541-549-1201.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit www.frontierpartisans.com.

 

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