Artist richard harden follows an odd prophetic call. Since his youth, he has traveled to scenes of decay and destruction to chronicle our condition as fallen humans in a battered world. His inspiration is what he calls "our fragile brokenness." His tools are charcoal crayons and a lithographer's stone.

"My work is a type of proto- evangel," Harden says. "It is like a diagnosis. Jesus in his kindness told people the truth about their real spiritual condition, and they were drawn to him for healing."

Still, some have questioned what could be considered Christian about the horror he depicts. "Some people have a definition of Christianity as 'pretty,' " Harden says. "My work is not intended to be part of the fairy-tale voice." Indeed, Harden and his artwork go a long way from Pleasant Valley, Connecticut, where he lives with his wife and six children.

Long fascinated with people in totalitarian states, Harden began his travels after high school with a visit in 1974 to the Soviet Union and other countries behind the Iron Curtain. He returned to Eastern Europe and Poland several times during the 1980s, when the Solidarity labor movement was on the rise. The experiences inspired the bleak but powerful landscapes that characterize his work. "I always recognized the palpable decay in industrial landscapes, which says a lot about our own mortality," Harden says. "That gave way to working with images that describe the life that people live there."

Since 1999, Harden has seen the ravages of war firsthand during numerous trips to Albania and Kosovo, where he has visited refugee camps and village battlegrounds. "I really believe that artists need to be out there, to confront the realities of life and then to react quickly," Harden says. Although ...

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