Beauty Given by Grace: The Biblical Prints of Sadao Watanabe Opening Reception

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Sadao Watanabe

All Saints Anglican Church will host a new exhibit, “Witness to Faith: The Biblical Art of Sadao Watanabe”, featuring original works of graphic art by Japan's foremost Christian artist of the 20th century, from June 25 through September 13, 2017.

Born in 1913, Watanabe was baptized as a Christian at age 17 and devoted his life to depicting the stories of the Bible in a visual language understandable to the Japanese. He used a traditional technique for dyeing textiles with hand cut stencils from the Okinawa Islands to make prints on paper. When Watanabe died in 1996, he left behind a visual legacy unique in contemporary sacred art.

Witness to Faith: The Biblical Art of Sadao Watanabe brings together more than 30 stencil prints, calendars and cards on biblical themes from the collections of Sandra and Robert Bowden, Al and Jane Haven, and Yoshio and Suzanne Inomata – of Cape Cod, MA. These intricately patterned images, in a variety of styles and formats, offer a panoramic view of the Bible. Watanabe saw himself as a Christian printmaker whose mission was "to stand within the artistic tradition of Japan." In his interpretations, the creatures entering Noah's Ark correspond to the animal signs of the Asian zodiac; Jesus and his disciples wear kimonos and gather at the Last Supper to eat fish and drink sake.

Watanabe found inspiration in the “mingei” folk art movement that developed inJapan in the mid-1920s to promote traditional handcrafts made from natural materials. Working with his wife, Harue, Watanabe cut all his stencil patterns by hand and printed his images on handmade mulberry paper, coloring them with vegetable and mineral pigments. He created small biblical scenes on untreated sheets of washi Japanese paper and large folio-sized prints on momigami wrinkled paper, made by crumpling and stretching sheets of mulberry paper to create a textured surface. Examples of both types of prints can be seen in the exhibition along with Christmas cards and calendars.

Watanabe's stencil prints can be found in the permanent collections of the British Museum, New York's Museum of Modern Art, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, and the Vatican Museum of Modern Religious Art. His chief desire was for his biblical prints to be seen in variety of public places by as broad an audience as possible.

The public is welcome to attend the opening reception on Sunday June 25, 3-5 p.m., and to visit the McGlynn Hall art gallery at All Saints Anglican Church –open Wednesday mornings from 9am – Noon and Sunday mornings.

2751 E. Galloway Street, Springfield, MO 65804 | Church Phone Number: 417-888-3001

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