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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Stephen S. Sawyer

The article is thirteen years old. The Sawyer's Jesus is as timely
as it is timeless (insofar as the future is concerned, that is).
Recently, as I was reviewing the work of several illustrators, in preparing for other articles, I began to notice that I could pretty much tell the decade in which a given work was created just by studying the painting style and clothing worn by the figures depicted. Today, as I was looking at the work of Kentucky artist, Stephen Sawyer, I came face to face with the realization that the same applied to religious images of Jesus Christ. I won't go into a lot of detail, but suffice to say our mental images of Jesus, based as they are upon artists' renderings, some hundreds of years old, are quite outdated. That's where Sawyer comes in. He and two or three other contemporary artists have taken it upon themselves to put before us a "new" Jesus. Prepare to be startled.
A born again artist with a vivid, reborn image of Jesus.

Stephen Sawyer is a devout Christian from Versailles, Kentucky. He has always painted religious themes, including, of course, Jesus. However he did those "traditional" arts, showing the Nazarene in those iconic images of sheep herder, water walker, and other biblical scenes. Then he recognized the obvious fact most Christians have not realized until now: those images were allegories. It made sense five-hundred years ago to talk about Jesus the "sheep herder." But what about today? Millennials would ask, "What the hell do I care if Jesus shepherded sheep?"
Art for God.
That is why Sawyer prefers to make a "strong and powerful" Jesus following the current models: a pumped-up, but at the same time, gentle Son of God, even in traditional representations. Sawyer's Jesus is a guy who definitely suffers with his siblings, instead of simply sitting up in a cloud somewhere judging others. Conservatives freaked out. Yet, at the same time, others applauded him. In the words of the artist himself, in justifying this "modern" revisiting of Jesus: "Jesus could hardly have achieved so many deeds or garnered such respect if he were a weakling." Sawyer concludes: "He was a carpenter of the working class. Surely his body was strong and muscular, because that was His most important working tool."
Sawyer's "image makeover" of Jesus Christ
Joy to the World, 2000,
Stephen Sawyer
After spending several years as a professional portrait artist, Stephen Sawyer decided to turn his skills towards sharing his faith in Christ. In 1995, Stephen created ART for GOD, an or-ganization dedicated to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ through stunning visual representations. His commitment is to accurately reflect the life and teach-ings of Jesus in the 21st-century. Sawyer strives to depict the holiness, kindness, humility, unselfish love, strength, and beauty, of Jesus Christ and His eternal rela-tionship with us in this present moment. People need to remember Jesus laughing and Jesus smiling (left). For a society that is used to experiencing most of life through television, radio, the Internet, and movies, Sawyer's art serves as a visual sermon offering viewers an opportunity to encounter Christ and his message in a different medium. Whether depicting Je-sus himself, or his teaching, as in The Good Samaritan (below), Art for God offers a unique way to spread the Gospel message.

The Good Samaritan, Stephen Sawyer...universal health care. 
Barely There, Stephen Sawyer.
Jesus would find this amusing.


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