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  Ah Rising! Fall 2019 Art Exhibit

Ah Rising! | Fall Art Exhibit | September 19-November 14, 2019

Gallery Hours: Monday: 11:30AM-1PM | Tuesday: 10AM-12:30PM | Wednesday: 1-3PM | Thursday: 10AM-12:30PM

My name is Erie Chapman.  I am a Baptist minister, a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School, a lawyer, healthcare executive—and, an artist.  In each of my career roles, art has traveled along, sometimes in the background, sometimes in the fore.  I am now in a season where art is in the foreground and my experiences of faith and religious scholarship are bound up in it.  The exhibit you will be seeing, “Ah Rising” is very much a work in progress.  It should be viewed as something “not yet there” but, hopefully, on its way.  As is sometimes the case with artists, the first move—the creation of the artwork—allows for a secondary effect, an understanding of what is, below the surface, inspiring the artist’s creativity.  In my case with this exhibit, the creative spark comes from the personal need to reimagine God, especially God’s messianic persona.  Who is the new messiah that seems to me to waiting in the wings, ready to bring the fresh wind of divine presence to humankind?  In the case of this exhibit that divine, messianic “person” is female.  Her name is Ah.

Another recurrence in the practice of artists is the impulse to explore that which we do not know—that which is mystery, that which draws us into unknown territories in search of revelation or experience.  And this is the situation in which I find myself creatively—exploring a manifestation of divinity very much different from the one I heard preached in my youth.
Feeding my creative direction in this exhibition is a vision that occurred during a near-drowning experience in my youth.  It was a vision of God personified as a woman. In the vision, the woman instructs me that God is Beauty and that I must honor that and quest for it.   Subsequently, I have tried through art to capture the divinity in human beings—particularly women—by photographing people of every background, race and orientation.  A number of the images in this exhibit are of European women but my larger oeuvre includes images of Black and Asian women—from young adults to the elderly.
While I am a heterosexual WASP who grew up in what is often referred to as a privileged social context, there were complicating relationships in my life that sensitized me and opened me up to the realities of others.  Two of those relationships were very close to home.  My younger sister was born with dwarfism.  I spent my childhood fighting boys who made fun of her.  My younger brother is gay and I have defended him as well—to our father.  Over the years, these two relationships and numerous others helped foster in me a religious and intellectual hunger that led me to Vanderbilt Divinity School and subsequently ordination.  The church where I was ordained, Glendale Baptist was thrown out of the Southern Baptist convention due to our two women pastors, one of whom identifies as lesbian.  The products of my artistic output share some of the same traits as my theology—love of the divine, love of humanity in all its variety, and seeking new (to me) paths to understanding.  For me, art is more a path than a destination.  More a question than a statement, more a hint than a full story.
Although I have two postgraduate degrees (law and theology), taught at Vanderbilt for two years, and went a little over halfway toward a PhD at Vandy, my artistic pursuits are not academic.  Instead, they are a very personal expression of one man in pursuit of the experience understanding of  beauty, which I define as divinity made manifest. 

Other Artistic Endeavors

I have been a full time photo-artist, film maker, composer and poet for more than ten years meaning that I integrate all four of these disciplines in my work (one of my books of poetry and photography is Woman as Beauty. Over the past ten years I have created and produced two, award-winning feature films and three short films,) The first of these is called Who Loves Judas (also performed as a play).  It addresses the hypocrisy of betrayal in contemporary America.  The second is "Alex Dreaming" in which Minton Sparks co-starred.

Exhibit Dedication

I was running Baptist Hospital full time while going to Divinity School full time.  So when I showed up in a coat and tie no one sat near me.  After a class on the first day a black woman who had been in the same class said to me,  "So, are you one of those anal retentive white guys with your coat & tie?"  Michelle Jackson and I became great friends and continued to be after she married her partner, Lillian.  A few weeks after graduation Michelle died suddenly.  She was 38.  I set up a Scholarship Fund in her honor at the Divinity School (it still exists) and I am dedicating this exhibit to Michelle, a gay black woman who looked like my opposite but was, instead, my sister.  


Alicia Henry: Partterns


Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture and the Kelly Miller Smith Institute on Black Church Studies present: Alicia Henry: Patterns  

Opening Reception:  January 31 – March 14, 2019

Thursday, January 31, 2019, 4:00 – 7:00 pm, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Room 120

Gallery Talk with Alicia Henry, Artist: Monday, February 11, 2019, 12:00 noon

Vanderbilt Divinity School, Room 120

Spiritual Meditation with Phillis Sheppard, Ph.D.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019, 12:00 noon, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Room 120

Commemorating Black History Month, an exhibit of mixed-media works by artist and Fisk University professor Alicia Henry.  "Patterns" will be on display in room G-20, ground floor of the Divinity School beginning with a reception on Thursday, January 31st from 4-7 PM.  The exhibit will remain at the Divinity School through March 14, 2019. 

The artist's statement

A common recurring image in my work is the human figure-the figure in isolation and the figure interacting with others. My work often explores these ideas through the theme of the paper doll and paper cutouts. I am exploring the social relationship these images have had in shaping the stereotypical and idealized figures in the media by depicting generalized figures representing what I hope is a broader vision of society (racial, gender, economic, and social levels), my goal is to make visible that which still often goes unseen.



Graph of Desire


G raph of Desire: A retrospective exhibition of paintings by Mira Gerard


September 27-November 12, 2018

Gallery Hours: Monday, Thursday, Friday from 12:15 to 2:15PM

Opening Reception: September 27, 4-7PM

Vanderbilt Divinity School G-20 (Arts Room)

Artist's Statement

I make paintings of the figure as a way to understand desire, which functions in my work in part as a fantasy about being both subject and maker. For several years when I was growing up, my family lived in a small intentional community in rural New Hampshire with no TVs and with limited access to experiences of mainstream American culture in the 70's. I became fascinated with fairies and fairy tales, along with the meadows, stone walls and woods around me. During that time, I was a frequent subject of my father's paintings- usually depicted playing in fields of flowers in sun-drenched afternoon landscapes.  

Ten years ago I quite literally stumbled into Lacanian psychoanalysis. It's a practice of speaking freely and in a very nonlinear way, which parallels studio processes of sorting through fragments, pieces of images and ideas, to make something new that remembers (re-members).  I create staged photographs and videos and supplement those with screenshots, art historical references, and collage. I am specifically interested in figures or elements in landscapes and spaces, and in the implication of a kind of storyboard, a before-to-after. Because the process of painting itself feels necessarily perfomative and vulnerable, I try to communicate this through both content and approach. I have embraced traditional, old master forms of construction, with a method in place for the breakdown of those processes to occur, so that the paintings themselves are like landscapes and bodies- a physical manifestation of interruptions, scars, layers, and time. 

Mira Gerard’s creative practice spans painting, performance, and video. She received her BFA from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana and her MFA from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia.  Her work has been exhibited at a wide range of venues.  Her work was selected for  New American Paintings #118  (Southeast Edition, 2015) and has been published in journals including Poets & Artists, The Cortland Review, and Manifest Painting International.  She has presented papers and performance & video works on the intersection of art and psychoanalysis at conferences including the International Zizek Studies Conference, LACK, Psychology and the Other, and the Southeastern College Art Conference.  She has been awarded fellowships for residencies at Ox-Bow School of Art, Cill Rialaig Project, The Hambidge Center, The Vermont Studio Center, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Mira Gerard is Chair and Professor in the Department of Art & Design at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee where she has lived since 2001. 

Desire: An Evening of Musical Reflection

Thursday, April 5, 2018 | 6:00 p.m.
Vanderbilt Divinity School G-20 (Arts Room)

Luther Young

While pursuing his Master of Divinity degree, Luther Young has undertaken research at the intersection of race, sexuality, and theology. An extension of the M.Div. Senior Project entitled "Pimps and Sissies: Gay Men, the Black Church, and Liberation Theology," Desire uses song and narration to illustrate how gay black men of faith maintain their relationship with God, either within or without the Black Church. Luther along with members of the community will perform musical selections to guide reflections about the experiences of gay black men in religious contexts. Desire will be held Thursday, April 5th in the Divinity School Arts Room at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Eikon: A Triple Encounter

Gallery Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 12 - 2 PM (Room G-20)


Lecture: The Canopy and the Byzantine Church

April 14, 2018 • 3:00 p.m. Divinity School Room G-23

Dr. Jelena Bogdanovic, MA’02
Associate Professor, Iowa State University
Lecture followed by a gallery showing for the exhibit, Eikon: A Triple Encounter (on display March 23-April 20).
Sponsored by: Vanderbilt Divinity School’s Program in Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture, Department of History of Art, Program in Classical and Mediterranean Studies, Department of Religious Studies, and the Department of History.
This event is free and Open to the Public.
The Canopy and the Byzantine Church



In My Lifetime: An African American Perspective

February 1 - 28, 2018

In observation of Black History Month, Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture is pleased to partner with the Kelly Miller Smith Institute on Black Church Studies to present an exhibition of paintings and mixed-media works from Nashville artist Omari Booker.  Gallery hours and artist's statement to be announced shortly.

In My Lifetime



March 16 - April 28, 2017



Triptych offers an invitation to encounter narratives of identity, as expressed by six artists. The show will feature works by: Chip Boles, Louisa Glenn, Terry Lynn, Ndume Olatushani, Steve Stone Jr., Brian Wooden.

Opening Reception: 
Thursday, March 16 (3-7pm), Vanderbilt Divinity School, G-20, ground floor 

Weekly Gallery Hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from Noon to 2PM - Room G-20 (ground floor Divinity) 
and by appointment (

Please note that the gallery will be closed Friday, April 14th in observance of Good Friday.



February 2 - February 24, 2017

Invictus: 20 works Celebrating African Americans' Pursuit of Freedom and Will to Survive

Hunted Slaves

Opening Reception: Thursday, February 2, 2017; 3-7PM - Room G-20 (ground floor Divinity)

Closing Reception: February 22, 2017; Noon - 2PM - Black Cultural Center (Vanderbilt campus)

Invictus: A Meditative Reflection,  February 24, 2017; 5-7 PM - Room G-20 (ground floor Divinity)  with Phillis Sheppard, Associate Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture & Calvin Settles, Jazz Pianist  

Weekly Gallery Hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from Noon to 2PM - Room G-20 (ground floor Divinity) 
and by appointment (