Benner, Juliet: Contemplative Vision
Juliet Benner: Contemplative Vision: A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer, IVP Books, 2011.
Think of Contemplative Vision: A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer as the gift of healthy exercise, a unique chance to grow in the act of seeing, both spiritually and artistically. Juliet Benner, as an international retreat and workshop leader, spiritual director, and trained visual artist, is the perfect guide into this deeper act of seeing.
Adept at drawing out resonant and meaningful connections between scripture and classic Christian art, Benner writes in an easy, accessible style for those who would seek to experience God with “all of the senses and the imagination,” rather than the intellect exclusively. “Art reaches us in places that are deeper than those reached by reason alone,” Benner writes, explaining both her personal experience and the experience of those whom she’s led.
But don’t think that Benner withholds her hearty intellect from the text: each chapter contains an encounter with a passage of Scripture and a corresponding work of art, drawing the reader into deeper and deeper levels of meaning and reflection through her written guidance and through a series of questions at the chapter’s end.
Threaded through the reflections are small biographies of the featured artists, which provide rungs for the most inexperienced art enthusiast (or juicy morsels for the seasoned art buff). Works of art appear full-color in the center of the book, and there are frequent cues throughout Denner’s reflections to flip there and notice some new aspect of a piece—work by artists such as Rembrandt, Jean-François Millet, Nicolas Poussin, He Qi, and Luca Giordano.
Still, while she’s knowledgeable about art, Benner’s primary purpose—and her real gift—is guiding readers into attentiveness and attentive prayer. For those wanting to experience God in a new way, and for anyone even slightly interested in classic Christian art, this book will quickly become a well-loved companion to contemplation.
About the Author
Juliet Benner is a retreat and workshop leader whose travel in recent years has taken her to Singapore, Malaysia, Norway, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Benner has taught high school English and art and worked as a teaching leader with Bible Study Fellowship, International. While raising her family, she trained and worked as a calligrapher. She has also worked in art education, serving for twelve years as a docent at the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Canada). Her primary training in spiritual direction was at St. Joseph's Centre for Spirituality (also in Hamilton, Canada). In addition, she has served as a consultant in art and spirituality at the Carey Centre on the campus of University of British Columbia (Vancouver) and Tao Fong Shan Christian Centre (Hong Kong). She lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, with her husband, David, who shares her passion for hiking, nature, art and music.