Contact: The Artistry of Jesus in Nine Faces features the visual and written art of James Tughan. This book is a narrative reflection on imagination, creativity, and faith in which Tughan is the chronicler, his artistic works are the supporting cast, and the star of the story is the imaginative and creative God in whom "we live and move and have our being,"
(St. Paul, Acts 17:28).
The art featured in this text, Tughan's polyptych the Nine Faces of Christ, is a mature example of his cartographic style which employs symbolic imagery and trompe-l'oeil. Individually, and as a group, these images form a topographic map, dense and multilayered, of the artist's reflections on the Christian story while maintaining critical distance from the genre of Religious Art. Along with his visual art, Tughan includes nine poems that imagine God's perspective on the story and nine poems that reflect a human perspective on current events. Each of his poems, like his visual art has a topographical character. Tughan's narrative also has cartographic feel in the way it maps the artistic, spiritual, emotional, theological, and intellectual spaces wherein he locates the Nine Faces of Christ.
Although a reader may decide to read Contact: The Artistry of Jesus in Nine Faces in one or two sittings, this book is not intended to be a book that can be idly thumbed through and then set down. Rather, Tughan's intent is to engage the reader to journey with him as he reflects on his artistic process and the big story that informs it. To help the reader, all but one chapter begins with a set of questions that invite them to consider their perceptions of, and responses to, the focal piece of the chapter and concludes with second set of reflection questions to guide discussion by a book club, study group, etcetera.
I commend James for this imaginative and creative work which makes his artistry and thought accessible to those who have not seen his art. I also commend this book as one that can be read, contemplated, and perhaps enrich the life of the reader.
Kelvin Mutter, DTh