An Artist Searches for Peace and Finds Christ in the Arts is the life story of He Qi, internationally recognized Chinese Christian artist. It is also the title of a team-taught Theological School summer course in Arts and Worship. He Qi and Heather Murray Elkins offered this seminar that was devoted to the study of creativity, beauty, and the theology of incarnation as expressed and experienced through He Qi’s paintings. Carl Aiken, DMin student remarks, “He Qi has observed that for many Chinese people Christianity is a Western religion. In his work, he has represented Jesus as Chinese, a Jesus who speaks their language, is part of their culture, who is one of them. Jesus taking on flesh in a way that creates relationship, an incarnation.”
He Qi’s presence as an artist, a story teller and scholar of Western medieval and Chinese Christian art captivated a class that included members of the Doctor of Ministry program, the MDiv program, and Drew’s entering class of international theological students directed by Katherine Brown. The life experience of the students included a hospital chaplain from Australia, a former JP Morgan employee, and a liturgical dancer from New York. That diversity found unity in the biblical images at the core of He Qi’s work.
Crystal Stone, MDiv student writes, “As we look through He Qi’s paintings, the vibrant colors reflect the cultures, seasons and nature he encounters, mirroring the greater story of God’s conspiring with humanity for the purposes of His/Her Shalom. The beauty of the artwork transcends the physical image and reconnects us with the beauty of the Gospel message.”
He Qi was pleased to personally present a special gift to Drew, Dr Robert Bull and President Vivian Bull: his newest book on Christian art and architecture. He Qi’s book cites the rare collection of Nestorian crosses that are at Drew, and features photos of Dr. Bull’s collection. Drew readers will have to wait for an English translation, as the original publication is in Mandarin.
The class traditionally includes a pilgrimage to a space of art and theology and the visit to the Cloisters Museum in New York was the highlight of the week. After touring the museum, class members were hosted by Dr. Ernie Rubenstein in his apartment and closed a week of studying beauty and faith with a panoramic view of New York City.
–Heather Murray Elkins, Professor of Worship, Preaching, Arts