By Margaret Bustard
As we work on the next issue of SEEN with the topic of Balance and Harmony, it is hard to not notice that the world around us is anything but balanced or harmonious. Through the uncertainty of COVID-19, the cultural moment that is the Black Lives Matter movement, and even the fight people are having over whether or not we should wear masks — the world seems the opposite.
The CIVA portfolio, CODEX VII: Block Print Portfolio, showcases many beautiful works inspired by the National Gallery of Art. Shine Is My Reason (for Meister Eckhart) by Kenneth Steinbach embodies the experience of both uncertainty and balance, discord and harmony. This piece can help the viewer process those emotions that come with the uncertainty of the present and the knowledge of God’s hand in it all. When looking at the piece the viewer can see their experience of 2020 in the uncertainty and chaos of the black and white square at the bottom of the piece. One can get lost in the dramatic white lines on the black and miss the braille at the top. Such a picture of the way that it sometimes feels to be a Christian in these uncertain times — that we can feel so caught up in the chaos and miss out on the certainty – the balance and harmony – that God has around us.
When making the work, Steinbach used a circular saw attached to the ceiling without the blade guard. He let the saw work its havoc on the piece of wood, dangerously swinging around. Encapsulating 2020, the “unsafeness” of the process creating this chaos of the print. In the artist’s words “… the work seeks to explore the mystery and fragmentation of our experiences, an understanding and appreciation for the finiteness of our perceptions, and a respect for the limits of our conclusions. Moments we cannot understand in their entirety, but are nonetheless filled with beauty and expressive uniqueness.” With each of the pieces being slightly unique and different in the way that the print was finished — altogether the pieces also showcase how each of us is experiencing this difficult time. While all of us have our own hills we are fighting up with our own stories, they are all within the same narrative. The braille at the top unifies the pieces, just as God’s hand in our lives unifies our narrative, creating balance and harmony within the uncertainty and discord of our present.
Margaret Bustard is a senior Museum Studies student in New York City at The King’s College and has been serving CIVA as an editorial intern working on the next issue of the SEEN Journal.