Psalms Visualized: Curator Statement
For me, the Psalms as difficult as they were to read and interpret became a devotional, my artwork a prayer.
~ Kreg Yingst
Psalms in 150 Block Prints
The 150 Psalms in the Bible provide rich material for visual artists. Their sometimes complex but always meaningful imagery, comprising a host of symbols, settings, characters, actions, objects, and emotions, yields to visual expression that, in the words of painter Bernard C. Winter, “springs from the desire to make the inner life visible” rather than to illustrate specific text. (Bernard C. Winter, “About the Psalm Series,” October 28, 2017; www.bernardcwinterart.com)
Similarly, printmaker Kreg Yingst, whose illuminating color woodcuts are the subject of St. Michael’s Fall 2022 exhibition, turns for artistic inspiration to the poetry inherent in the psalms’ similes and metaphors. Through deep and intimate engagement with language, he produces an entire psalter with which he develops a personal spiritual practice of daily reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating; eventually, this practice leads him to “find aspects of these songs that [speak] to me in the here and now.”
Uniquely, concentrating on only a verse or two, rather than on the text of an entire Psalm, Yingst interprets and translates word and image, leaving it to the imagination of viewers of his small-format visual meditations — each a mere 6” x 4” — to find meaning and enlightenment in his compositions. His more narrow approach, he explains to us in his Artist Statement, is known as Melete (in classical mythology, the “Muse of Meditation”), and dates to well before St. Benedict’s time (c. 480-547 CE). Yingst’s intentional adoption of a verse or short phrase allows him time throughout a day to continually meditate on what is fundamental about the particular text of a Psalm, while his visual rendition serves as an aide-memoire.
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This exhibition can be seen in person and online. The in-person exhibit is limited to 10 framed artworks hanging in the Parish Hall, where visitors also will find an Exhibition Notebook containing exhibition-related information.
The online presentation includes images of each of the framed artworks as well as images of 10 additional works from Yingst’s series of 150 Psalms in wood blocks. Within this selection are the well-known and “popular” Psalm 23, Psalm 46, Psalm 62, and Psalm 117.
Traditionally, the Psalms are organized into categories (for example, Praise and Exaltation, Remembrance, Confidence, Thanksgiving, Ascent and Kingship, Lament, Wisdom) or themes (such as the emotions of Sadness, Anger, or Joy). Some of the Psalms offer perspectives on Creation and the pastoral; others, on doing justice; still others, on death. All help shape a vision for both individual and community, and for how God is present among us.
For purposes of this exhibition, both in-person and virtually, the artworks are organized simply — by number of Psalm.
Some other components of the online exhibition are Yingst’s short devotions and commentaries that are included in a downloadable and printable pdf that also includes the artwork and full text of each Psalm in the show; a Psalms soundtrack that incorporates various musical styles (chant, classical, pop, gospel, choral, and world music), and a list of selected resources for those who wish to learn more about the Psalms and how artists have used them.
In going from work to work, viewers are urged to take note of Yingst’s distinctive artistic style, the snippets of text used for emphasis or instruction, and the visual metaphors and symbols that stand in combination with text or alone as illustration. Viewers also are encouraged to consider Yingst’s use of color, and how it informs what each Psalm expresses, describes, or suggests.
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For visiting hours, directions, or other information, please telephone: Parish Administrator, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 1132 N. Ivanhoe St., Arlington, VA 22205; (703) 241-2474.
PLEASE BE PREPARED TO OBSERVE ANY COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS THAT ARE IN PLACE WHILE VIEWING THE EXHIBITION.
Arts & Faith Ministry