In the late '80s, G. Carol Bomer was exalted by Asheville's artsy set for her pleasant, often animal-themed watercolor paintings, so popular in certain circles she had them mechanically reproduced for sale.
But her current show at Grace Community Church's gallery threatens her old reputation. In her mixed-media piece "Linguistic Style," Bomer collages photographs of the Tower of Babel, along with other buildings and structures from different cultures, with Biblical texts in various languages. These are layered with paint and different kinds of surface treatments. A wide wood frame is incorporated as part of the piece, and the following scripture serves as the work's title:
"For You have made a city into a heap
A fortified city into a ruin ...
Therefore a strong people will glorify You
For You have been a defense for the helpless,
A refuge from the storm."- Isaiah 25:2
Several other works also deal with decimated cities, though it's unclear whether they refer to New Orleans, Baghdad or New York.
"Sacrifice" is another mixed-media effort, this one executed in reds. A big dead cow, skinned and eviscerated, hangs ready for the meat cutter; the butcher stands next to the slaughtered animal, anxious to begin his work; an altar-like shape in the background holds three tottering crosses - and the lower part of the painting and frame are spattered with blood-red paint.
In her artist's statement, Bomer says that her "continuing struggle as an artist is to convey something of 'the mystery of Christ' (Ephesians 3:4-7) combining form and content, and using both metaphor and incorporated text (story) to point to the richness of the everlasting Story. By integrating abstraction and realism, I attempt to stimulate the viewer's imagination and allow one a glimpse of this Mystery."
A glimpse of her earlier sensibility, at least, is seen in two lovely monoprints called "Banding." Executed in soft golds, the central bird-in-flight image hovers above a single floating feather.
A large, commercial-looking sign in front of the church just reads "Grace." And the building it advertises stands without pretense - no flying buttresses, no stone saints, no stained-glass windows. It could be anything until you get inside, where the sanctuary doubles as a dinner theater and a concert hall. Art hangs everywhere: Craig Lotz, arts director at Grace since 1995, says the congregation decided they wanted their new building to function as more than a place for a select group to worship on Sunday morning.
"We believe," he says, "that we were created in the image of God, and that that creative energy is in our DNA - it is an important part of who we are."
The church's entryway is the gallery. Painted a pale, soft, earth tone, the space is large, with good lighting. "The criteria for accepting work for the gallery is simple," Lotz says. "We are not so arrogant as to believe that Christians have the only access to truth and hope, and these are the things we like to have expressed in the work we hang."
[Connie Bostic is an Asheville-based painter and writer whose work can be seen next at the Meadows Museum in Shreveport, La.]
G. Carol Bomer's Incarnate Word will show at Grace Centre Gallery at Grace Community Church (495 Cardinal Road, in Fletcher) through Sunday, Jan. 22, on which day the artist will give a talk, from 12:15-1 p.m. Call (828) 891-2006 or see www.graceinfo.org for gallery hours.