Jesus images in contemporary Christian art, usually make me cringe, for their excessive use.
However, the popularity of Jesus images simply cannot be denied. His face is recognizable, no matter which part of the world you hail from. I recognize that by utilizing that familiarity, ideas and concepts can be communicated, which would be impossible without the ever-present Jesus image.
There is an interesting history to the familiar Jesus image. The much-venerated Shroud of Turin, which was purported to have wrapped the body of Jesus at his death, carried an imprint of His face. It is dated to around 30AD, and it bears all the markings consistent with what could perhaps be the crucified body of Jesus. This shroud has been exhaustively examined and tested. Somehow it maintains its mystery. I am not declaring, or denying, its authenticity.
What I do know, is that this early impression on the shroud, does indeed indicate someone with a face that is similar to today’s familiar, bearded Jesus image.
I maintain that terrific Christian art can be created without the repeated use of the Jesus image. However, Lance's story moved me to include his work here. This artist effectively uses the familiarity of the Jesus image, to engage others, in what amounts to a form of worship combined with performance art.
Performance art is defined, by Wikipedia, as a term "usually reserved to refer to a more conceptual art, which conveys a content-based meaning in a more drama-related sense, rather than being simple performance for its own sake for entertainment purposes."
Contemporary expressions of performance art range from wildly bizarre to overwhelmingly disgusting. This is neither. So who am I to deny Lance Brown from showcasing his refreshingly sincere performance art ?
Here is Lance's story, as he tells it:
“I got laid off and I was upset for a short time, but I felt like God was blessing me with a new opportunity. This was my chance to take my passion for art and painting and to serve him and glorify the Lord!
I prayed "God please show me what you want me to do...I think I know, but I need you to be clear! I need absolute confirmation. I want to know without a doubt, so please open the doors that need to be opened, and shut those that need to be shut."
A day or 2 after being laid off, my phone rang. It was my friend Kae, who used to serve with the youth worship team at St. Matthew's in Burleson, Texas. She mentioned my name to her pastor, who was leading a youth retreat in Oklahoma the coming weekend. They wanted me to come paint Saturday and Sunday! That was the confirmation that I needed. God was showing me that this is what he had planned for me all along. Amen!
When taking the trip to Oklahoma, I figured I would go out there and do my thing, get some exposure and then come back home. This was not the case....
Saturday, a few hours before the service, I began to feel sick to my stomach and SUPER nervous. I can't explain why... but I have never been comfortable being in front of large groups.
Funny how God puts us in places where we may feel the most inadequate, and then he uses us in ways that we cannot comprehend.
My friend Kae took me aside about an hour before the performance and prayed aloud over me, with one hand on my shoulder. It was a powerful prayer, and it released all of the tension and nerves that I had been feeling that day. I was ready after that.
I found a quiet room to pray and get quiet before God. In that time he spoke to me very clearly. "Lance, do not make this about you. It will not work, unless you let go and make it all about Me. This is about lifting Me up and glorifying My Name. You are a vessel and I want to use you."
I felt a sense of purpose and relief after that, like no other time in my life. I was cool as ice after that, ready to go on stage and praise him!
I still had nerves before the show, but not like before. This was a healthy dose of adrenalin that we all need before times like this!
I started my performance of my painting "Brokenness" and half way through, disaster struck! My canvas began to fall off the easel. It started to fold and collapse. I spilled a tray of paint, while catching it before it fell. I tried desperately to secure it. At one point, I had to go behind the canvas with a Twist tie, to try to get the easel to stay put. Kae ran up on stage and held the canvas from behind. She prayed the whole time while I finished the show. When it was done, I was shaking. It was very moving, emotional and powerful.
In "Brokenness", the story that I tell is of Jesus being beaten severely. I paint him from the back, then dip my hands in red paint and begin to slash his back. The audience never expects it and it can be very shocking to witness. The young crowd was stunned, amazed and moved deeply.
I never expected to encounter God on the level that I met him on this trip. I was effected deeply and I can honestly say that I have never been closer to God, than I am at this time in my life.
This has been a leap of faith for me so far. Trusting in God to provide is not easy. It goes against my natural, earthly instincts, but faith is what connects us so closely with God.
We get stronger when we "exercise" our faith in ways that we never have before. I am excited, encouraged and hopeful for what God has in store for me in the future.” Lance Brown
I was interested to discover that Lance is also color blind. Color blindness or “color vision deficiency” (CVD) is the inability to perceive differences between some colors that others can easily distinguish. He especially struggles in differentiating between values of blues and purples, as well as reds, greens and browns.
If ever there is an example of God honoring a willing vessel, Lance's life would certainly prove it.