For the past week and a half, from Feb. 19-28, the Blackberry Farm Gallery has showcased many series from the painter pastor Alan Jones, who creates his art under the pseudonym “Theophilus.” This pseudonym happens to mean “friend of God” in Greek, which seems befitting to biblical works that Jones has painted.
There were many different paintings that belonged to separate thematic groups, but all of them had a major theme: to celebrate black heritage through the ages and in the Bible.
I will say that I am not a religious person by any means, but I thoroughly enjoyed viewing Jones’s paintings. So many biblical works of art typically feature a white-skinned Jesus, and every other hero in both the Old and New Testaments.
So it was refreshing to see biblical paintings that showed a different side to the Christian faith. Personally, I prefer Jones’s series of “Blacks in the Bible” than any other biblical work of art. His take on this theme is unique, and does seem to break the barrier of race in religion.
The paintings that caught my eye most of the time were actually done around the late 1980s and early 1990s. “Queen of Sheba” (’89), “Bashemath” (’88), and “Ham” (’84) were a few of my favorites. Each one of these paintings is simply a bust of the famous biblical figure that they are named after and is painted with beautiful attention to detail. The wrinkles on the face of “Ham” were especially vivid, which gave me a good sense of the biblical figure’s age and the hardship he most likely went through.
I noticed that a majority of the best paintings were of women, and I like to think that they are being credited as some of the most important figures in the Bible. The Queen of Sheba was a major player in the stories of Solomon, and Bashemath played a key role in the Book of Genesis as the daughter of Ishmael and Esau’s wife. The painting “Urban Madonna” also portrays a strong black woman who is more modern, yet no less as important, as the bringer of life and mother of another generation.
Other than giving a new side to the Bible and showcasing strong female biblical characters, what I like best about Jones’s exhibit is that his interpretations of these figures are probably more accurate than what we see in most Biblical art. All of his pieces are detailed and stylistic—although his most Phoenix/Angel series lacks the quality of his older pieces—and they take into account what the figures probably looked like back in that time since this all happened around the areas of the Middle East and Northern Africa. Everyone would have darker skin rather than pale skin and big blue eyes.
Even though I am not part of the Christian faith, I can still appreciate Jones’s exhibit at the Blackberry Farm Gallery. His art sends a good social statement about black heritage and importance in history, and it gives a new perspective on one of the most well-known books of all time.