Church artists show Christmas through their eyes

Published 10:29 pm Friday, December 4, 2009

The Greek poet Simonides once said that painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift of speech. People at First Baptist Church of Demopolis have shown that they can paint Christmas carols through several artworks inspired by the Christmas story as presented in the book of Luke.

The artworks can be seen in the sanctuary throughout the Christmas season. Among them are “The Annunciation to Mary” by Carla Keen (Luke 1:26-38), “The Magnificat of Mary” by Betsy Coplin (Luke 1:46-56), The Journey to Bethlehem” by Traci Spiller (Luke 2:1-6a), “The Holy Nativity” by Sandy Baker (Luke 2:6b-7), “The Shepherds in the Field” by Fallon Keen (Luke 2:8-9a), The Angels’ Message” by Sylvia Homan (Luke 2:9b-13a), “The Wise Men Pay Homage” by Betty Russell (Matthew 2:9-12) and “Mother and Child” by Ida Lee Bridges, taken from “Silent Night.”

“First of all, I tried to find out who in the church did art,” said Ed Rush, the minister of music at the church. “Then, I called each one and asked them to do one scene. I gave them 12 choices of scenes from the Christmas story.

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“I got the idea from my daughter’s church. She goes to Trinity Methodist in Homewood. They had done this at Easter for the stations of the cross, and I thought that would work with the Christmas story, too. We furnished the canvases for them, already stretched, and I gave them the choice of whatever medium or style that they wanted to do.”

Rush said the artists enjoyed doing their works, and each had her own experience in putting their works together.

“It must have been an inspiration from God, because it did not look a thing like the picture that I had,” said Coplin. “I normally am very meticulous to make something look like what I’m copying. It just kind of came together.

“It was very unusual; I’ve ever done anything like that before. I’ve painted two of my three children. I’ve painted some of my animals. I usually use a photo, so I can see where the shadows are. It took me about a month-and-a-half, but I didn’t work every day of that. It’s just very different from anything I’ve done.”

“This was the first time I’ve painted anything (for public view),” said Carol Keen. “I love painting, and I found that I love painting with oils. It’s very forgiving.

“When I talked with Ed, he had called about Fallon doing a painting, and he said that he had heard that I had taken some classes, and he asked if I would do one. I said that I would, but then, I realized what a job I had! I really did enjoy it, and I plan to do more painting now.

“You never feel like you ‘re finished,” she said. “You always say, ‘Well, maybe I’ll paint this,’ or ‘Maybe I’ll paint that.’ We all really enjoyed doing it.”

Christmas holds different meanings for different people. For the artists from First Baptist Church, each artwork tells the poetic story as seen through their eyes.