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Conference unites art and religion

February 1, 2008

Conference unites art and religion

Artists, musicians and scholars will gather on campus for PLU’s second “Art, Religion and Peace Conference” Feb. 12 and 13.Last held in the spring of 2005, the conference explores ways in which the visual and musical arts of religious communities promote justice and peace.“The arts have been an integral part, and remain an integral part, of religious traditions, both historically and today,” explained religion professor Samuel Torvend.

Visual artists, musicians, poets and architects have produced art to respond to the pressing issues of their time, or to address issues of social justice and peace, he continued. The study of religion at the university level tends to be text-heavy, and the conference will highlight the music and visual arts aspects of the subject.

“We have a very eclectic mix, from Jewish klezmer jazz to a lecture on 4th Century Christian art to the breakout sessions by PLU faculty,” Torvend said.

Robin Jensen, the Luce Chancellor’s Professor of the History of Christian Art at Vanderbilt University will give the keynote address, “The Victory of the Cross in Early Christian Art: Transforming the Iconography of Conquest.” Her talk on Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Scandinavian Cultural Center is the inaugural Alice Kjesbu Torvend Lecture in Christian Art.

“She’s the primary North American expert of early Christianity,” Torvend said. “She has done groundbreaking work in terms of how Christian images have served as challenges to imperial ambition.”

Jensen’s research concentrates on the visual expressions of Christianity within their social and political contexts. She is the author of “The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith and the Christian Community,” “Understanding Early Christian Art” and “Face to Face: The Portrait of the Divine in Early Christianity.”

Jensen will also host a conversation titled “Early Christian Images and the Interpretation of the Bible” at 4 p.m. in room 201 of the University Center. For more information on the Bible and art, click here.

PLU faculty members will present concurrent sessions on Feb. 12. These include:

  • From 10 to 11 a.m., visiting assistant religion professor Brenda Ihssen, “Smashing God’s Face: Violence in the East” in Ramstad 202.
  • From 10 to 11 a.m., associate religion professor Kathi Breazeale, “Sister Corita Kent: Artist in the Midst of Adversity” in University Center 201.
  • From 2 to 3 p.m., humanities dean Doug Oakman, “Symphony in Black: Church and Cabaret in the Music of Duke Ellington” in UC 201.
  • From 2 to 3 p.m., Torvend, “Resisting Racism: Apartheid, Tutu, and the Icon” in UC 133.

Assistant art professor Heather Mathews will lecture on “Monumental Art and the Memory of the Holocaust” on Feb. 13 from 1:45 to 2:30 p.m. in UC 133.

Also on Feb. 13, Sascha Schönhaus will read from and discuss his father’s recently published work, “The Forger: An Extraordinary Story of Survival in War-time Berlin,” at 11:15 a.m. in the UC’s Regency Room. In the book, Cioma Schönhaus chronicles his use of graphic arts to forge documents used by Jews to escape the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 40s.

The conference concludes with a performance by Baith Jaffe in Lagerquist Concert Hall at 8 p.m. Founded by Sascha and David Schönhaus, the Swiss ensemble integrates contemporary European jazz with evocative melodies of klezmer music, a distinctive form of religious and secular music with roots in Hasidic and Ashkenazic Judaism.

Admission to the concert is free. Goodwill offerings will be accepted.

Free conference programs will be available on beginning Feb. 12 at 9 a.m. in the University Center Foyer. A complete schedule is available online.

For more information on the conference, contact Torvend at ext. 8106.

University Communications staff writer Megan Haley compiled this report. Comments, questions, ideas? Please contact her at ext. 8691 or at Photo of Robin Jensen.