Let the Art Speak
April 30, 2022
Bearing God’s image, yet cloaked in humanity, we labor to see the dignity of others and even ourselves. In a world awash in brokenness and turmoil, art can powerfully speak. But how does this happen?
Most works of art represent the convergence of artistic perception and skill, as artists engage a variety of media and subjects. Meaning-makers by nature, artists who focus on the human form and experience reveal the personhood of others and become storytellers in the process. When photographers capture the image of a face, or painters study their subjects, or filmmakers weave a narrative, they draw near to an Other. In doing so, they seek and even reveal meaning, unveiling attributes, emotions, and human stories often undetected.
To launch this rich half-day conversation, art historian Wayne Roosa will provide a critical framework to aid us in thinking more carefully about the human story and the place of our own stories within it. Following that, photographer Asher Imtiaz, filmmaker Alex Miranda Cruz, and painter Catherine Prescott will share images of their compelling work and discuss the ideas, convictions, and questions that drive their creative endeavors.
Among the questions we will ask: How do these artists approach the holy task of presenting the personhood of their subjects? What stories are they telling? How can these makers—and others like them—help us to see more clearly? All together, we will consider the ways in which art can be spiritually, communally, and culturally transformative. If we dare to “let the art speak,” what might happen within and among us?
Wayne Roosa is Professor of Art History Emeritus at Bethel University, St. Paul, Minnesota, where he taught art history and served as department chair. He was also chair and co-founder of the New York Center for Art and Media Studies (NYCAMS), in New York City. He earned his MA and PhD in art history at Rutgers University. As an art historian, he has been an Andrew W. Mellon Research Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities research grant for work on the private papers of American painter Stuart Davis, at Harvard; and twice a juror for the National Endowment for the Humanities. His writings include: exhibition catalogues on the American painter Stuart Davis; gallery exhibition essays for many contemporary artists, including Rico Gatson, Jesús Morales, Luis González Palma, Deborah Butterfield, William Tucker, Robert Birmelin, Betty Woodman, and Michel Kenna; and extended catalogue essays on Chris Larson, Failure (2008), Domestic Vision, Twenty-five Years of the Art of Joel Sheesley (2008), “Flooded” and Other Intimate Terrains by Cherith Lundin (2007), and Guy Baldwin’s kinetic art for Retrospectives: Guy Baldwin and Gary Hallman (2007). He assisted Patricia Pongracz and Ena Heller in curating The Next Generation: Contemporary Expressions of Faith at MOBIA (Museum of Biblical Arts, New York City), an exhibition on forty-four contemporary artists, and contributed the essay for its book, “Dancing in the Dark/Waltzing in the Mystery: Art About Faith.” Most recently he contributed the entry on Art and Religion to the new Wiley Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Religion. Now retired from teaching, he is a full-time artist and writer living in St. Paul. You can find more of Wayne’s work at wayneroosa.com.
Alex Miranda Cruz
A filmmaker of Indigenous, Latino, African, and Sephardi descent, Alex Miranda Cruz was born and raised in Los Angeles and now resides in Madison, Wisconsin, where he and his wife, Noel, are innovative leaders in filmmaking. Alex began his career as a child actor, first appearing in commercials before making his film debut in Clubhouse Detectives, for which he was nominated for a Young Artist Award. Afterwards, Alex made appearances in The Lost World: Jurassic Park; Walker, Texas Ranger; and The Ellen Show; he won an ALMA Award for his performance in the PBS TV Mini-Series, Foto Novelas: In the Mirror. After years of being cast-typed for delinquent roles, Alex left Hollywood and became a Creative Director at an advertising firm in Madison, where he continued to observe and experience systemic inequalities in the industry, especially around how it depicts diversity on screen. After the success of his first short film, Fantasy in D Minor, and his feature length film, Trace the Line, Alex left the advertising world to become a full-time filmmaker. Through their company, Bravebird, Alex and Noel are developing a new methodology of filmmaking and photography that disrupts the common narrative of white savior tropes and other stereotypical depictions of diverse communities on screen. Forthcoming projects include Decolonizing Dinner, a short documentary about indigenous chefs. You can find more of Alex’s work at wearebravebird.com.
Asher Imtiaz is a portrait and documentary photographer who focuses on immigrants (mainly refugees and asylum seekers) moving to the United States. Born and raised in Pakistan, Asher moved to the United States in 2012 to pursue graduate studies in computer sciences. A Milwaukee, Wisconsin resident, he currently works for a multinational technology company and also helps lead international student outreach at his church. His journey as a photographer began with a focus on religious and minority groups in Pakistan, and he is currently collecting stories and photographs for his first book. Asher is also a self-proclaimed cinephile who admits to often spending more time thinking about films than photography. His work on immigrants is published in Comment an in The Living Church magazine. In 2021, Asher and Madison-based photographer Barry Sherbeck exhibited their work at Upper House in a show titled Pressure Under Grace. You can find more of Asher’s work at asherimtiaz.com.
Portrait painter Catherine Prescott was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Wisconsin. She has twice been a finalist in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition at the National Portrait Gallery. Prizes include: The Representational Art Conference (TRAC); the Portrait Society of America; TheArt Renewal Center; The State Museum of Pennsylvania; and the Salmagundi Club. She was in the inaugural exhibition of Women Painting Women and their ongoing shows. Other group shows were with Christians in Visual Arts (CIVA), the Butler, the Brauer, the Phillips, and the Susquehanna Museums. In 2016, she was one of nine painters asked by Principle Gallery, Charleston, to exhibit portraits of the nine people killed at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, June 2015. The artists then gave the portraits to the victims’ families. Prescott taught painting and drawing at Messiah College for 20 years, and has taught intermittently in Gordon College’s Orvieto Program Abroad since 1998. Public collections include the National Portrait Gallery, the Governor’s Offices of the Pennsylvania State Capitol, The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Messiah College, York College, and Fulton Bank. Catherine and her husband live and work in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and have two adult daughters. You can find more of Catherine’s work at prescottpaintings.com.
Presentation—Art Historian Wayne Roosa