Harry Antis Art Gallery
June 12 – July 10

Sundays 12 – 4 p.m.
Thursdays & Fridays 6 – 9 p.m.

You can view Harry Antis’ paintings at the Kreft Art Gallery at Concordia.

God, it seems, has always been partial to art.

Oh, sure, there is the command against creating graven images given on Mount Sinai: but that command seems to be focused fairly specifically on fashioning idols—ascribing homemade gods some kind of status over and against the One-And-Only God, whose name is I AM (cf. the golden calf, Mount Sinai again).

When the Holy One Himself wants to tabernacle (to tent or dwell) with His chosen-but-sinful people, the Tent of Meeting (or Tabernacle) is specifically designed by God—designed to be beautiful AND to communicate the grace of the One-And-Only who dwells with His people.

So when the artisans carry out the divine plan for the divine dwelling, even their artistic abilities are explicitly from the divine hand:

The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.” (Exodus 31:2)

Notice that the artist is

  1. known by name
  2. specifically and uniquely gifted by God
  3. for a specific purpose that
  4. brings beauty and
  5. communicates God’s glory and grace.

Just like the beauty of creation declares the glory of God in a general way to every one (Psalm 19:1), so all art worthy of the name gives glory to the Author of all beauty. In fact, God even delights in art for art’s sake; the detailed craftsmanship of the pomegranates on the top of the temple pillars could not be seen by anyone but God alone (2 Kings 25:17).

So all beauty is God’s beauty, just as all wisdom is God’s wisdom. And some art points more specifically to the story of salvation; some art not only glorifies God by being beautiful, it helps communicate God’s heart for His chosen-but-sinful people.

Our congregation currently has the privilege of displaying some of that kind of art: work by the painter Harry Antis that is both beautiful and communicates the Gospel beautifully.

Work by the painter Harry Antis is both beautiful and communicates the Gospel beautifully.

As an artist, Harry Antis spent his career honoring God in his vocation. He eventually moved from work in the automotive industry and, later, the Apollo space program, to an area closer to his heart: wildlife painting.  Whether it was an award-winning duck stamp or the series of North American wild sheep in the permanent collection of the Dallas Museum of Natural History, Harry captured some of the glory of God expressed in nature.

As a mature artist, and follower of Jesus, Harry turned his own discipleship walk and meditation on Scripture into art that also preaches the Gospel. The Crucifixion, Harry’s first painting from the life of Christ, came out of meditation on 2 Corinthians 5:18, “God has reconciled us to himself by Christ.”

Over the course of the next decade, Harry would go on to create 12 paintings from the story of Jesus, images that range from individual portraits to crowd scenes, from a tender interaction with the disciples in the upper room to the tumult of Jerusalem streets.

Part of what makes these paintings so impressive is their size: many of the paintings are eight to ten feet wide and four or five feet tall. The hand-crafted mattes and frames also capture the theme of the paintings—from the custom seed matting on the Parable of the Sower, to the manger-shaped frame around The Nativity, to the treatment of The Crucifixion that looks like it was cut from the same cross in the painting.

AntisPainting3In the paintings themselves, Harry shows off years of experience in capturing God’s creation: the way he paints hair, light, and movement make the story of Jesus come alive. The grief and hope of Mary on Saturday, the internal struggle and brilliant sunset of The Temptation, the raindrops on the shoulder of The Crucifixion—all speak the heart of God for His chosen-but-sinful people, people God has reconciled to Himself by Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Faith comes from hearing.” (Romans 10:17) In context, Paul is talking about communicating the message of salvation to people who do not yet know Go’s love for them in Jesus: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

Paul’s focus isn’t the organ of the ear or the sound waves involved in hearing: it’s about a message that needs to be communicated to people in ways they can understand. The Harry Antis paintings put the message of Jesus—His saving life, death, and resurrection—on display in ways that preach to all who see.

It’s beautiful artwork; and it is artwork that speaks the Gospel.

St. Luke, Ann Arbor hosted the premiere exhibit of the Harry Antis Life of Christ series on November 3, 2000.  Harry’s widow is currently selling all of these paintings. As a way of serving her and as a blessing to the St. Luke community, we currently have five of the paintings on display. The rest are in storage at Concordia University—Ann Arbor until we can organize a showing and sale.

One painting—the original Crucifixion—has already been purchased by a member and generously donated to St. Luke for permanent display. Any individuals or groups interested in purchasing one of the paintings can contact the St. Luke office at office@stlukeaa.org.