Can fine art be used in communicating the Gospel? The work of Gordon Kelly with “Creative Christian Ventures” may point to a new breakthrough in this direction.
When Gordon Kelly was suddenly arrested by God in a dramatic conversion in Manhattan in 1951, he was facing a brilliant career as a painter. A graduate of the Art Student League of New York and a member of its faculty, he was closely associated with the late Kenneth Hayes Miller, one of the greatest of American teachers of art. Kelly was well on his way to wide recognition and even fame.
Yet, as he himself puts it, he was a pagan. Though born and brought up in the “churchy” town of Richmond, Indiana, he had never been told about Christ and the Gospel. He began to paint at an early age and, self-taught, won prize after prize. After service in the Air Force, he decided to study art and chose the Art Student League because it had produced more leading American artists than any other school.
Kelly describes his conversion as a mystical experience that stopped him in his tracks. He saw his pursuit of artistic fame as cultural idolatry. The whole direction of his life was changed. He went to the nearest church (the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York), told what had happened to him, and was baptized and received into the Episcopal Church.
Kelly’s work immediately took a new turn. He began the study of the Bible and theology which he pursued intensively for seven years and in which he is still engaged. He gave up his teaching at the Art Student League to devote himself to religious art. Lean years followed, during which he worked as house parent at a children’s home in the Bronx, New York, and taught art at Scarborough School, Scarborough, New York. He also designed ...1
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