August 19, 2009: The Inquisition of Job is Completed After 5 years

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Jeff LeFever just finished his first painting since his 2003 show, CLOUD FORMS/divine mystery.

Brian Nixon wrote the following article for Assist News: http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2009/s09080132.htm

Is the unedited article with larger images (click on the images to see the larger version in light box fashion).

Jeff Lefever: Traveler, Artist, and Visionary

By Brian Nixon

Special to Assist News

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Laguna Beach, CA—Jeff Lefever is an anomaly.  Twenty-five years ago, many in the art world would know him as leading graphic artist, creating popular works such as “L.A. Zoo” which depicts a zebra with a Mohawk and sunglasses.

People who have followed Lefever in the past six years may know him as the creator of the “Freedom Art Project,” an attempt to paint crosses, clouds, and Scripture in magnificently large-scale format paintings.

Several years back, an image from the Freedom Art project created quite a stir in Laguna Beach, California.

According to Lefever, “It all began when my church asked me to use the image from Psalms as a banner for an Easter Sunrise service at the Irvine Bowl in Laguna Beach. When community leaders saw the size and image, they reacted, ultimately asking the interdenominational group to take down the banner from street view, so as to not offend people in the city.  Fortunately, the banner was used for the service within the Irvine Bowl behind the stage.”

Yet, still, some may know Lefever as a photographer, traveling the world capturing moments of worship, beauty, and sacred space. On his most recent trip, Lefever traveled to the Czech Republic to photograph churches in Prague, Olomouc, Kutna Hora, and Brno. Hie photo work can be seen at www.lefever.com

The truth of the matter is that Lefever is none of these descriptions, yet he is all of them.

As artist, photographer, former teacher at the Laguna College of Art and Design, and President for the Foundation for the Biblical Arts, Lefever sees himself—“first as a seeker of God, then as one individual in the mass of humanity learning to understand what it means to be human, and finally, an artist.”

lefever_la-zoo_1982 His artwork ranges from representational to the abstract.

According to Lefever, “my style of painting started representational and began abstracting over time as a means to add greater emotional and psychological expression into my work.  By 2003, my work had become completely non-objective.”

Recently, Lefever has described his artwork as “Relationalism.”

Lefever describes Relationalism as “to layer the work in both textural complexity and compositional simplicity with no identifiable objects to narrate an idea or give a solid identification other than what the viewer brings to the artwork with their imagination.”

The idea was originally developed for CLOUD FORMS/divine mystery (technical studies the Freedom Art Project paintings) as a means of creating live relationship between the viewer and the art. Lefever wanted people to see the paintings in an intimate and personal way, requiring the viewer to see the art work anew in each encounter, with fresh imagination towards the content of the painting.

The artist adds, “In fact, I like to hear what people see in the artworks as a means of “getting to know” the viewer.  Relationalsim affords me a way to understand people’s ideas without arguing over meaning, because there is no meaning in the paintings, only content.”

His most recent painting in the “Relationalism” style is The Inquisition of Job.

inquisition-of-job_srgb_8_72dpi_sharpened-1200px_w As one can see from the painting, it is an abstract work, with swirling colors, geometrical shapes, and varying emotional spheres.  In the bottom right corner, wave-like images abound, with words from the entire chapter of Job 38 etched throughout the lower third of the painting.

In the middle of the painting, a ghost-like image progresses up towards the heavens. The top portion of the painting reminds one of a Byzantine church, with its blue canopy and gold stars.  The upper left portion of the painting has the greatest emotional impact: dark colors interact in strange configurations, communicating dissent, disorder, and conflict.

The painting is divided by two overarching sections: the geometric bottom, with layers of horizontal lines (peace and tranquility, maybe?), and the upper region of the painting: discordant, dark and menacing (the inquisition or trials of Job?). The painting’s seeming chaos is grounded by a complex Golden Mean division giving it an unseen structure and balance. Interesting to note that the Golden Mean is based on the Fibbonacci number sequence believed in the Renaissance to be the Divine Number sequence, as the Golden Ratio was found throughout nature.

What ever the interpretation one places on the painting, it must be said that Lefever’s “Relationalism” is definitely rooted in the abstract world, with one foot in a Spiritual quest to understand both God and life.

According to Lefever, he “spent about a hour a week for three years working on the painting, not the way to work on a painting if one ever hoped to see it completed or to keep integrity of idea and style.”

Upon his return from a month in the Czech Republic photographing consecrated space, LeFever dedicated time to finish the painting, and by May 31, 2009, it was completed.

The painting was originally titled Napkin,” referring to the original sketch from which the image was created.  The painting was originally planned to be a black painting. In the process, however, the painting gained color and became much lighter

So where does Job come in?

According to Lefever, it all began with a dream.

“I had a dream and idea to read scripture aloud in a church, 24 hours a day, 6 days a week, remaining open to the public. The scripture reading was to start with Genesis and continue through Revelation then repeated, continually, always in sequence.

“Readers would read an hour at a time—and like relay runners—hand off Scripture at the end of their hour to the next reader.  It was meant to be an offering to God, to bless the space, and to bless the community as an available consecrated environment where Scripture was actively heard and spoken into the air to the heart of God.

Jeff suggested this idea to his pastor and two years later a form of this Scripture reading was implemented for the season of lent: 5 days a week, 8 hours a day.

LeFever signed up to be the last reader for every day of the event.

It was during Jeff’s reading time that he decided he would finish the painting.

The central form of the painting looked like a whirlwind. So LeFever looked up whirlwind in scripture and came upon Job 38 where God answers Job out of the whirlwind.

Jeff began writing the verse into the painting.

When Jeff returned to his reading at Church, he found that it contained Job 38! But even more astounding was that—during the Lent season of reading—the church went through the Bible two and a half times, yet, LeFever was the only reader for Job 38—all three times.

It was after this that the artist changed the name from “Napkin” to “The Inquisition of Job

God speaks in whirlwinds, as well as in paintings.  And Lefever’s quest to understand the profound truths of life and faith ought to be something all people—artists or not—strive to portray in life, seeking God in the beautiful, the true, and even in the trials and dark spaces of our existence.

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