Dust to Life

Artist Statement

Photography is fundamentally painting with light. Using the tools of the camera and computer, I craft light and pixels to create worlds that exalt and reflect the master Designer. Your journey through the constructed imagery is an exploration of the gospel of Jesus Christ as told through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. My goal is to encourage believers and non-believers to meditate on the ancient truths of the Scriptures in a personally relevant, contemporary context. My prayer is that my artistic exploration may also help you to know the loving God, the Author of light, in a personal and eternal relationship.

Description

     Dust to Life is a Fine Art genre project with the intent to communicate biblical truth in an artistic outlet. I am working with a narrative concept using constructed artistic involvement. My primary actual subject is expressive with secondary illustrative and statement-oriented actual subjects.

Photography is a powerful art capable of conveying the truths in Scripture more effectively than the written word alone. My intent is to communicate the resolution of these truths through my own visual interpretation of God’s Word. My literal subject matter consists of myself in various contemporary attire using different props that connect with the chosen Scripture passages. While the project is NOT about me, I am portraying my themes in a self-portrait project which made the connection to my message stronger and deeply linked with my personal concept.

The Bible passages were selected from my personal study Bible and verses that I find to be either challenging or encouraging to my walk in the faith. My goal is to show how the Bible is intertwined and vital to everything I do as a follower of Christ, persevering over sin, and living a life set apart to God who promises me a mansion in heaven. As a believer, how I apply Scripture to daily, practical decisions radically impacts my interactions with my family, friends, and foes forever.

My objective is to communicate my expressive actual subject by using Bible verse inspirations and visualizing these biblical truths in a contemporary fashion while I lead my audience through the entire Bible. My goal is to connect my personal life’s quest in a way that other Christians will be able to relate personally to their own spiritual walk. I am seeking to connect the contemporary quest of a Christian throughout his or her spiritual walk similar to the classic allegorical fiction novel Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. I hope to make my viewers contemplate the importance of applying Scripture every day to their spiritual journey as a good follower of Jesus Christ. There may be a sense of persuasiveness, but this will not be my primary intended outcome.

My goal is to communicate the Christian journey from the moment of creation to my soul’s glorification as described throughout the Bible. Those who have lived through similar trials and temptations will be able to relate to the failures and victories seen through the progression of the images. The one word titles and the inspirational Bible verses are an important part of understanding my intended interpretation. While the scenes are not actual Biblical accounts, the truths are apparent through gesture, props, and dramatic elements like water, earth, fire, and wind.

My main intended audience will be Christians who can relate to forgiveness from sin and who are pressing forward for victory in Christ. To believers, the message will be challenging, encouraging, and spiritually uplifting. Unbelievers may be able to appreciate the aesthetics but may not understand the conceptual messages as clearly. Though I would be elated if the visual representation would open an unbeliever’s eyes to believe the truth of God’s Word. In contrast to some religious artwork, the intended purpose of the project is to convey a positive message to build up biblical beliefs and truths rather than demeaning or questioning the existence of God and the afterlife.

My reasoning for the Fine Art genre is so I can be free to express my strong personal beliefs and interpretations of biblical truths without using obvious takeaways that often accompany Commercial genre work. I have learned to use some wry humor and simplicity that does cross over into the Commercial genre style.

I am using both low and high keyed compositions with minimal separation in background and subject. Much of my project uses different angles and dramatic lighting that is keyed from the back or side. The light has a harder shadow edge transfer to help communicate the dramatic moods of the scenes. At times the lost and found contour lighting requires the viewer to piece the imagery together psychologically.

For most of the composite components in the montage process, the elements were photographed on a solid black or white background. This allowed me to effective mask and combine my subjects while using blending modes appropriately for the polished editing processing.

The framing is mostly active so the edges of the frame can create some tension and conclusion while emphasizing the photographer’s involvement with the work. I use lighting and compositional placement to show depth and avoid leveling the balance.

Process

Print, Process, & Capture Specifications 

I shot the project digitally using the RAW file format and manual exposure on the 20 megapixel Canon 6D and various Canon lenses. Most of the pictures consist of four or more pictures using the digital format, which worked best because it allowed for an easier method of creating montages in Photoshop that many times consisted of 20 or more layers. Using Smart Objects on the original RAW files allow for subtle transitions in exposure, blur, sharpness, and color to blend the elements to create one unified piece. In Adobe Photoshop I used individual adjustment layers and clipping masks to assist in the fine details of compositing of each piece. The digital montage techniques represent the marriage of the physical and spiritual realms to visualize my concepts and beliefs in a way they could not be completed another other way.


My prints were printed at White House Custom Color. The custom-made portfolio box alludes that all of us came from dirt and our bodies will return to dirt after eternal souls leave our bodies. The final project consists of nineteen 12”x18” lustre prints dry mounted on 3mm white styrene with the absence of glass hinting at the direct relationship of prayer between the physical and spiritual worlds.

Project Evolution

I enjoyed the challenge and excitement of working with the lighting, costuming, and posing of my projects. Reflecting recently, I found my early days of stop-motion animation helped me to make sure the little details were crafted well. Not being a good pen and paper artist, I am now empowered to create art that I see in my mind’s eye using photography instead. Pre-visualizing of the completed post-production work is something that comes easy for me now. Before this project I had almost never used a 1×1 aspect ratio. The old square formatting stylistic choice helped challenge me to push my exploration of composition. Eventually I changed to the 3×2 ratio that helped create more cinematic themes. I found the exploring of implementing Scripture passages directly onto the imagery to be a valuable exercise in learning more about style and blending modes in Photoshop. Thanks to the advanced Photoshop classes and lots of trial and error, I have grown so much in my ability to create using blending modes, masks, and selection techniques.

The germ idea for this project dates back to the fall of 2013 in Photography Concept with Shannon Ayres. He pushed me to explore what was most important to me. It was during Ayres’ class I started shooting conceptual pictures of my brother in authentic Roman armor. My early digital montage work needed vast improvement so I took Digital Montage in the spring of 2014. My Advanced Photoshop directed study in the Fall of 2016 prepared me even more for the level of detailed work I needed. Now I have become even more passionate with the connection behind my spiritual concept, grounded by my faith and my love for the art of photography. After passing the Midpoint Review, I continued to study more of the artists and photographers who have inspired me. This awareness of the great masters of the camera helped me improve and refine my own unique style.

Though the project is now complete, I look forward to continually learning more ways in the production and post-production processes to make future work better. I truly believe this Thesis Project is the most worthwhile project I could have chosen. Looking back I can see how the Lord worked out the details and gave me strength to bring me to completion of my terminal MFA Photography degree through the Academy of Art University.

Artist Biography

     During the course of my life, my Dad has been a pastor at three different Baptist churches in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Under my parents’ guidance, prayer, and testimony, I too came to an understanding of my sin in God’s eyes and its condemning consequences of separation from God forever. There was no work or religious act I could do to merit my forgiveness and a place in heaven. Instead as a young boy I made my personal decision to put my trust in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone, for salvation from my sin. This commitment to God has become a blueprint for every decision that I still make today.

In junior high I wrote, directed, and filmed my own episodes of The Little Rascals. A family move in 1998 altered my life and gave me plenty of time to analyze and imitate the BBC animated series Wallace and Gromit. By the time I graduated from high school in 2002, I had spent thousands of hours creating three short stop-motion films lasting a total running time of fourteen minutes. This creative appetite sparked in me a desire for learning the power of visual storytelling which led to my photography and business minors at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College. My goal in college was to use the desires and talents God had given me in video and photography career. At this point I still did not know of how God would use me and my talents to create for His glory.

After graduating from Pillsbury in 2006, my wife and I started Milky Way Photography, a freelance wedding and portrait business. Pillsbury Baptist Bible College offered me a position teaching photography while pursuing a photography graduate degree. In the fall of 2008, I began my MFA Photography degree at the Academy of Art University. Due to the poor economy, Pillsbury closed after the fall semester. For the following spring semester, the Lord graciously allowed me to be employed by Maranatha Baptist University to teach photography and videography. Given the content of the video and media classes I was to teach, Maranatha’s Academic Dean recommended I switch to the MA Multimedia Communications degree. In 2011, I completed my MA while taking three photography classes, hoping someday I would have the opportunity to complete my MFA Photography degree. Now I am happy to be growing further in my photography abilities and am confident that I am a better teacher for my students and the Lord’s glory.

Exhibitions

Dust to Life is being submitted to be exhibited in churches and galleries around the country. If you are interested in a showing in your church or gallery, please make a request using the Contact page.

COMING Exhibitions

August 4th, 2017  ViZion Conference at Calvary Baptist Church in Watertown, WI.

August 5th, 2017  Athanatos Festival in Greenwood, WI

PAST Exhibitions

June 13th-20th, 2017 Calvary Baptist Church in Watertown, WI.

June 4th, 2017  First Baptist Church of Milltown, WI

May 30th, 2017  Watertown’s 7th Annual Art Walk at Charles David’s Sons