Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Aust, Carol - VM - Laurel Gasque

Carol Aust: Nativity
Love’s Pure Light
by Laurel Gasque
Joy to the world, the Lord is come! This painting by Carol Aust (b. 1958) bursts with expressive energy to exclaim that ‘The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world’ (John 1:9, ESV).
At the center we see Mary lifting her newborn baby up as the Light of the World. Shepherds with their sheep have a mixture of responses. One responds in wonder; the next, questioning. Another has open hands to receive the child. While another figure moves away from the scene suggesting that nothing out of the ordinary is happening other than one more birth in the world.
Aust adds to the visual narrative the Adoration of the Three Kings, who look in wonder at the newborn babe. Although bathed in light streaming from the child, the person to the left of the first king seems more impressed by being in the presence of kings rather than the King of the Universe.
Then there is Joseph, with open hands and arms, welcoming the child whole-heartedly even as he tenderly touches Mary.
Intriguingly curled around the edge at the far left of the painting is a large figure filled with anxiety, holding back from becoming involved with the event he intently surveys, even as his garments seem swept by the wind into the central drama.
The reactions of the participants in the narrative serve to remind us that we respond in various personal ways to the birth of Jesus, whether we are conscious of this or not.
Aust’s Nativity could well be a visual translation from a verse of the most popular Christmas carol of all time, Silent Night:
‘Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.’
Joseph Mohr (1816)
Carol Aust works in acrylic on canvas and wood panels from her studio in Oakland, California. Her figurative paintings are emotionally-charged narrative fragments infused with mysterious tension and secrecy. She often places her figures in precarious environments where anything could happen. Sometimes celebratory, sometimes lonely and disturbing, her paintings express a wide range of human desire and yearning. Aust’s work consistently features strong and vibrant colors along with figures that are both engaging and vulnerable. Through her own private study she has been influenced by artists such as Emil Nolde, Marc Chagall, Käthe Kollwitz, and the German expressionists. Her work is represented in private collections throughout the United States.

Laurel Gasque is associate editor of ArtWay and the author of Art & the Christian Mind: The Life & Work of H. R. Rookmaaker.

ArtWay Visual Meditation Christmas 2010