Introducing our Spring Quarterly Staff Picks

Engage Art | Artist to Artist, In the Know | May 12, 2022

Our jury is hard at work, evaluating the nearly 800 artworks submitted to the 2021-22 Engage Art Contest. While we wait for the jurors to choose the winners, here are some of our staff’s favorite entries for Spring 2022.

Fully ⅔ of our entries—more than 500 submissions!—arrived in the last three months. With such a range of fantastic artwork, we decided to recognize three artworks in each category. 

Disclaimer: We are not jurors! These spotlights have no connection to the official contest results. We anticipate announcing the Engage Art Contest’s Semi-Finalists in June 2022, the Finalists in July 2022, and the Winners in August 2022. 

Visual Arts

Stand Against The Wiles: Alpha Omega by Steve A. Prince

Stand against the Wiles: Alpha Omega” is a linoleum cut on paper by African American artist Steve A. Prince. Steve reimagined the Virgin Mary cradling the infant Jesus, portraying the myriad burdens that a parent carries and keeps away from their vulnerable, innocent child. Steve writes: “The relationship between Mary and Jesus bubbled to the surface and I saw their lives reflected in every mother and every child that has entered a beautiful, perilous, awe inspiring and uncertain world. The mother is adorned with a headdress that symbolizes the weight of the world on her mind.” 

We were captivated by the mother’s determined gaze, her eyes locked with the viewer, her arms cradling her babe while fighting off the serpent that crawls around her. 

Sower’s Seed by Jun Gueco Cruz

Sower’s Seed” is a mixed-media artwork by Filipino-American artist Jun Gueco Cruz. Jun writes that his artwork depicts germinating seeds bursting with life. The picture is a metaphor for our own spiritual transformation. Jun calls this “biomorphic” art, which he defines as “‘Life Transformation,’ a process by the saving grace of God in Christ Jesus. This is accomplished by the renewing of our minds, an inward spiritual transformation that will manifest itself in outward action.” 

We love Jun’s riotous cacophony of color and texture. Movement and vitality sprout lines in every direction.The sense of interconnectedness is palpable as seedlings overlap, crowd together, and reach across one another on their journey above ground. 

Perpetual Bonds by Frank Domínguez

Perpetual Bonds” is a black-and-white photography series by Cuban photographer Frank Domínguez. Frank writes: “To me, Perpetual Bonds represents this spiritual battle between people from whom for better or worse we never separate.” 

We love the haunting, ambiguous story told by this series. Notice the movement of the two people as they try to escape or pull each other closer. What story do you see? Could they represent a dysfunctional or codependent relationship? Maybe Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Sarah and Hagar? 

Or is this a Prodigal Son story? In 1890, Francis Thompson published a poem of faith titled “The Hound of Heaven.” In this poem, God is the “hound” who pursues the poet throughout his life until Francis at last turns and surrenders to God’s love. The poem begins:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

Do you find echoes of this poem in “Perpetual Bonds”? The narrative in this artwork resists a single interpretation or tidy resolution. 

Video Arts

IMAGINE by Camille Hanson and Juan Carlos Arévalo

Choreographer Camille Hanson and visual artist Juan Carols Arévalo live and work in Madrid, Spain. They write: “IMAGINE is intended as a ‘Dance for Peace’ as the world battles war and confronts inhumane suffering in Ukraine, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria, among others [. . .] The essence of the Scripture of Ephesians 6:10-20 coincides with one of our central artistic intentions: to embrace the practice of performance as Sacred Activism.” 

How do you engage with this artwork? Does this dance, performed under endless aircraft formations, seem like a prayer for peace? A response lamenting the tragedies of war? Or an embodiment of war itself? The lyrics sampled from John Lennon’s iconic 1971 song Imagine add a clear layer of commentary, highlighting the tension between the war we experience now and the promised Peace of God when all swords will be remade into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4). 

I Found God In New York City by Mariah Barrera

We love this artwork by emerging artist Mariah Barrera. Mariah is a Mexican-American filmmaker born and raised in Michigan, currently based in New York City as a sophomore at Columbia University.

In “I Found God in New York City,” we love Mariah’s complicated relationship with the city (equal parts disenchantment and love). We also love the cinematography here. Mariah’s visuals complement and enhance the carefully-crafted words of her poem. Both move steadily skyward, from sidewalk, to window, to rooftop. The Bible gives us the wings of eagles; in New York City, the pigeons remind us to “fly skywards.” 

Mariah writes: “I hope that with this film, I can inspire Christians especially in this city, to seek God in the midst of the battle. To armor themselves with his words and to cry out to him when he becomes lost in the day-to-day hustle and bustle. In hopes that we won't just be strong in the Lord’s power, but that we can encourage an entire city to be, too!”

OLUWA IS by Renee Joseph-Fortune

Hailing from Trinidad & Tobago, Renee Joseph-Fortune is the singer/songwriter who composed “Oluwa Is.” Renee writes: “In Yoruba [a West African language spoken primarily in parts of Nigeria], ‘Oluwa Is’ means ‘God Is’, and for me, God is anything and everything I need for my life [. . .] ‘Oluwa Is’ is a bold declaration of the mysteries of God and His miracle working power to save and deliver us out of all forms of bondage.” 

The video is Renee’s outpouring of praise. She writes: “‘Oluwa Is’ speaks about celebrating the miracle and deliverance that God promised with the birth of my son in 2022. Because of Him, I won the battle against infertility and the miscarriages I experienced for ten years of my marriage.”

The cinematography and use of landscape (from barren red rock to lush green life), the color palette drawn from West African kitenge fabrics, and the impeccable choreography all enhance and illustrate the message of Renee’s song. 

Which artwork speaks most to you today? Why? 

Be sure to visit our Gallery and browse the 2022 contest entries. While you’re there, give an UpVote to the artworks you love. Upvotes are not connected to the contest results, but they’re an easy and effective way to affirm and encourage the gifted artists who have shared their artwork with us.

Submit Your Artwork Today!

Curious? Interested in submitting artwork to our contest? Know someone who might be? Through April 14th, 2022, the Engage Art Contest is open to the whole world! Get your foot in the door by claiming your Artist Page now!