Chris Cook Artist

Southern Art – Georgia Artist – Landscape Paintings, Christian Art, Southern Expressionist Art

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When the Zeal is Real:

 

When I look at this painting, I am immediately drawn to the passion in his eyes and the wildness and spirit of his face. I am reminded of the way in which John the Baptizer is described in the scriptures as “wearing clothes of camel’s hair, with a leather belt…eating locusts and honey.” John called the religious leaders of his day “children of snakes… trees that don’t produce good fruit…and husks of wheat ready for the fire that can’t be put out”.

John the Baptizer was a man full of zeal and passion. He came along to prepare the hearts and lives of God’s people for Jesus’ arrival. He was tasked as a prophet to get God’s people to turn away from their wickedness and sins that hey might live on the path of God that would lead them to life eternal.

That zealous spirit was ultimately what led to John’s death. He spoke up to King Herod about his relationship with his sister-in-law. It didn’t take long for Herod to silence John by cutting off his head and placing it on a silver platter.

I believe that the zeal that John and people like him had is something that we should all desire to some point. His belief and faith in what God had called him to do and to be took him to a place that he was willing to live differently, and to press against the establishment of both religious and governmental leaders. There is something to be admired about living a life with such passion and zeal for a cause that you are willing to wager your very life for it. I believe that the world needs more of that…

There is no escaping the passion and life in the face of John in this painting. Chris does an excellent job of capturing the “wild man, camel hair, bug eating” spirit of John the Baptizer. I am captivated by the way that one can almost feel the passion behind the eyes of the man in this painting. To attempt to capture the face of someone using the way in which their personality traits are described is a difficult task I am sure. I believe that Chris does a great job of relaying what he sees as characteristics of John onto this painting.

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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The Gift of Grace:

 

What’s so amazing about grace? What is it about the unmerited favor and acceptance from a loved one, despite all of our imperfections, that they extend to us time and time again? Why is it that a grace can captivate and keep us attached to people?

Why is grace so easy to want, but so difficult to want to give?

How is it that even in the midst of brokenness, pain, tears, and hurt, that grace can still be offered, and still be received?

As I look at this painting, I am struck by the fact that the embrace of grace is happening, even in the midst of pain and tears. The party on the left is present and loving even while the one on the right is clearly distraught and emotional. I believe that this is a great illustration of how grace can find us in seasons of our lives. While we are still in the midst of our pains and struggles, often completely undeserving of any grace or acceptance whatsoever, God is willing to meet us with an embrace of grace that says “my grace is sufficient for you”.

Are there times in your life when you feel like the one who is struggling to give out grace? Are you more often the one who feels undeserving of the redeeming grace of God and of others?

No matter where you find yourself in this image, it is safe to say that the embrace of grace is a wonderful, life-giving, and humbling place to be.

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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Motherhood:

As I look at this painting entitled “Motherhood”, I begin to think about what it means to be a mother. (I will begin by saying that I am not a woman, so I will never know what it’s like to be a mother, and I don’t have kids yet, so I am not speaking from personal parenting experiences).

First of all, the rolling hills in the landscape are beautiful. The lush colors provide a sense of warmth and life that one might expect from the hillsides of Scotland or Ireland. The stark contrast of the two white cows in the middle of the field is striking.

The mother cow seems alert. Even in the midst of what seems to be a safe and protected environment, she is on guard and knows where her calf is. The calf seems to find comfort and protection in the touch of its mother, knowing that food and room to play are close by, but that the safety of mother’s touch is still key.

I wonder if this painting is a good parallel to what motherhood must feel like. Standing in a field, surrounded by all that you know, but all that you need is to feel the presence of your child. It seems as if the mother and her calf would be content to simply graze and bond for the rest of their days. I imagine what it must be like for the mother as the calf begins to become less and less dependent on mother’s milk, and begins to graze further and further out into the pastures. I wonder how the calf feels as it comes over a ridge to find its mother still there, waiting for it to return.

I think about my own life growing up. I think about the times that I found comfort in knowing that my mother was nearby. I think of the times that I began to graze in new pastures, only to return back to the safety and security of the fold of home.

There is something about the bond of a mother and her children that will forever be one of nature’s most beautiful expressions of intimacy, love, protection, and care.
That may be a lot to see in a painting of two cows standing in a field…but it makes me think…it makes me feel…it makes me remember. And that, brothers and sisters, is what art is all about.

 

Shalom, y’all –

Jed

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Dive on in!

 

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.

John 21:7 NIV

This painting is a reflection of one of my all time favorite passages of scripture. Jesus, having resurrected from the cross, is standing on the shore of the lake with a fire started and breakfast cooking for his friends. One of the first things that Love did was make breakfast! What a glorious breakfast that would be!

The disciples have come up completely short as they tried to turn back to what they knew how to do. The last three years of learning from Jesus, healing the sick, and ministering to those on the margins had come to an abrupt end, and they must’ve figured that fishing was the next best thing they could do.

If I were one of the disciples and this man had been shouting, almost taunting me from the shore as I came up with empty net after empty net, I would most likely be frustrated and down on myself as they were. Jesus was gone, their days as disciples and healers were over, and now they couldn’t even fish! 

But then, something beautiful happens. One of the disciples shouts out that he recognizes the man as Jesus. Impulsive, denying, sword swinging Peter tosses on his outer garment and dives to swim for shore. At the moment he realizes that Jesus is alive, that everything he had devoted his life to was not lost. His rabbi was alive, the Messiah had risen!

There are times in our lives when things seem lost. The beautiful truth is that sometimes all it takes is to catch a glimpse of Jesus, maybe even to be reminded of his presence through a friend or family member (thank goodness for the Johns of the world that can point out Jesus in our lives when they see Him) to turn a season of empty nets into breakfast with our Lord and savior!

I hope and pray that we could all find the passion and excitement to jump out of the boat and swim with all of our might to the shore where Jesus is standing, searching, calling out to us to once again drop our nets and live in relationship with him.

Who is your John? What is keeping you in the boat? How can you point out the presence of God to the people around you so that they might dive in, leave it all behind, and seek to be in relationship with the Lord forever and always?

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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“He died for us too”

 

With movements centered around racial equality and an end to racism and bigotry such as the “Black Lives Matter” still very much alive, well, and needed, even 53 years after the Civil Rights Act went into effect, one must ask themselves…”Why?”

Why does it take a set of activists and movement makers to bring to our attention that black lives matter as much as any others?

Why haven’t people of color been treated with the liberties, freedoms, and privileges that their white sisters and brothers have enjoyed without thought or consideration?

Why does the color of one’s skin, the amount of money in their wallet, their country of origin, who they love, or their racial background take away from their identity as an image bearer of God, and a redeemed child of the One True King?

 

When I look at this painting I am struck by the white feet of Jesus, pierced by nails and bleeding out from the cross. The title of this painting is “Died for us“. I am struck by the truth that sometimes we all need a reminder of who all “us” includes. “Us” means all of our brothers and sisters; especially those who don’t look and think like we do.

For God so loved…

  • The homeless
  • The Sick
  • People of color
  • The Elderly
  • People in poverty
  • Refugees
  • Widows
  • Orphans

…The World that He gave His one and only Son; that whoever believes in him would not perish, but have eternal life.

 

Us” means that we see the image of God in our brothers and sisters no matter what…and that we love, care for, respect, and protect them as if we were protecting our very selves. What a wonderful world it would be if this held true for us all.

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Connected…Not Connectional

 

It has been said that while people today are the most connected that we have ever been through the advent of smartphones and technology, we live in a world in which face to face verbal communication is in a great decline. Studies of coffee shop social interactions discovered that most people check their phone every 3-5 minutes and that most people held their phones in their hand or placed them on the table in front of them.

The art of face to face conversation is dying off, and people seem to have forgotten what it means to simply sit and enjoy being in the moment of social interaction with one person or a small group. This scene is one that can be found in nearly every coffee shop, restaurant or watering hole across the globe. Though we are the most connected that we have ever been as a people through social media, instant messaging, chat rooms, apps, etc., we have fallen away from the connection of good old fashioned conversation.

Some of the best and most memorable talks that I can remember having were with my friends and family members over a meal, perhaps a beverage simply enjoying being with one another. Whether we were in a rocking chair, on a couch, swinging on a porch, or taking a walk, there is simply no substitute for the connectedness that comes from being with someone simply for who they are.

I am as guilty as the next person, I will admit. Nevertheless, the question that I will leave with is this. Who do you need to sit down with for a cup of coffee, an adult beverage, a slice of pie, or a nice long walk? What could you stand to gain from a good old fashioned distraction-free conversation with someone that you care about?

 

Something to ponder…

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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The Infamy of Equality:

Born Michael Luther King, Jr. in January of 1929, Doctor King is without a doubt one of the names of people that I thought of when I began to think about Chris’ exhibit about infamous people. Despite his revolutionary efforts on behalf of the Civil Rights Movement, and his commitment to nonviolent means of protests, Dr. King no doubt was an individual who lived a life that impacted the lived of all people (to the dismay of some, and the joy of others).

I believe that Dr. King’s infamy is rooted in part in what was then a radical and revolutionary thought that all people are image bearers of The Creator God, and should be treated and held equal as members of that creation.

In a time in which many African American citizens were fighting to be seen as something more than inferior, unworthy, and beneath their caucasian counterparts, Dr. King and others worked hard and marched, protested, picketed, and rallied to push for total inclusion and acceptance for all people. King became a hero to many, and a villain to others as a result of his efforts though the Civil Rights Movement.

I had the pleasure of walking through the National Civil Rights Museum alongside my classmates in the seminary program that I am a part of in February of 2017. Printed in large letters on the walls of the first room that one enters at the museum, amidst information and memorabilia about African slave trade and inhumane living and working conditions were the words

” We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal”

I couldn’t help but be struck by the irony of this statement, written in 1776, surrounding reminders of such a painful and shameful piece of our nation’s past.

I am grateful that Dr. King and others like him were willing to risk ridicule, violence, injustice, pain, and even death in the pursuit of what they felt was a right and noble cause. I am grateful that they believed so strongly, that they endured and triumphed in order that we might live in a society that was more diverse, accepting, free, and open to persons of all races, creeds, and backgrounds.

It is a shame that it took a bunch of infamous, “revolutionary”, and “visionary” thinkers to help our nation to realize the power of a more than 200-year-old statement that… “All men are created equal”.

I pray that we may all be willing to risk infamy and endure hardships in order that our brothers and sisters will know that they too bear the image of our Creator and that they too deserve the protection, freedom, and love that we are all entitled to.

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The Infamy of Hope and Youth

I have to say that I was at a loss when I learned that Chris wanted me to write about the infamy of Anne Frank. When I think about infamy, my mind does not typically turn to people who had their lives ended too soon, or who were subjected to the horrors of Nazi Germany during World War II.

But then I began to think. “What is Anne Frank famous for?” And the inspiration for this post started to come to me.

Anne is famous because of the diary that she kept while she and her family, along with several others, were hiding from Nazi forces. A gift from her father, the notes and diary entries that Anne wrote were his attempt to give Anne a way to express herself and keep busy during what he knew would be a difficult time.

Anne Frank’s legacy wasn’t held within the years of her life, but rather in the life and wisdom that was contained in her 15 short years. Though she was young, Frank had a gift for telling stories, and her spirit that refused to give up, even in what was surely one of the darkest ages that our world has faced. Anne can be called infamous because, despite the pain, fear, and inhumanity that she faced from the Nazis, she never let that get her spirit and faith in the world down. Anne held on to the hope that evil would not win out, and that this season of her life would one day transform into spring of new life and growth.

I believe that the following quote from her diary sums up her spirit quite well:

“I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”

I believe that many young people are seen as infamous because of their refusal to give into the negativity, hatred, and suffering that are so paramount in their world. Anne Frank held on to hope for a better tomorrow. As a youth pastor, I get to see the hope and excitement for a better tomorrow that is contained in the lives of the students that I get to work with each day. I am grateful for her legacy of hope, faith, and courage – and that I can see it live on in the faces of the youth of today.

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Storytelling is painting pictures with words:

 

“I don’t care what anyone says about me, as long as it isn’t true.”  -Truman Capote

Chris told me that this exhibit is very much about the face of the subject. He scoured the web for the right images of each person that he showcases in this work before settling on the right one to infamy that person has to offer. I believe that he caught Truman Capote’s struggle perfectly with this expressive piece.

Born a meek, sensitive, and mild-mannered boy, young Truman was picked on for being a wimp. He was criticized for his creativity and his inventive ways. Little did his friends know that this creative little wimp would grow up to become a famous playwright.

Because of his struggles in school, and difficulties in his home life, Capote made poor grades and spent much of his high school years drinking and carousing with is friends at the clubs. Some of Capote’s associates at that time included the likes of Oona O’Neil, daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neil (Long Day’s Journey, The Iceman Cometh), and Gloria Vanderbilt.

A big part of Capote’s infamy came as a result of his struggles with alcohol, his social outcast nature as a child, his family struggles, his expression of his own struggles through the stories that he told in his writings, and the fact that Capote had a 35 year relationship with author Jack Dunphy in a time when homosexual relationships were much less the norm. Many of Capote’s writings were criticized heavily because of the emotional struggles and “homosexual themes” contained within them.

Perhaps one of Capote’s greatest successes was Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which he explored the life of a New York Girl who depended on men to get by. The story was adapted into the 1961 film starring Audrey Hepburn. Capote also became famous for his work In Cold Blood, in which he followed the story of a gruesome murder trial. This work proved to be a highly emotionally taxing endeavor.

Capote’s brilliance in storytelling was the only thing that paralleled the controversy and intrigue surrounding his lifestyle. He spent many years in and out of rehab for drugs and alcohol, struggled with social settings and strained relationships, and working to “fit in” with the “typical” life of an American male author in his time. Regardless of his personal struggles and his infamy Capote’s ability to tell a story and to captivate an audience is undeniable.

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Walking the Line in Infamy

When Chris asked me to begin writing blog posts again, I was excited and thrilled. I love his artwork and really enjoy stretching my creative writing muscles as I compose these pieces about his paintings. This particular upcoming show is one that I think will feature Chris’ ability to tell stories through images in a very dynamic and thrilling way.

The exhibit, “Face to Face – Portraits of the Infamous” will be shown at the Colonial at Main & Washington from Thursday, May 4 through Sunday, May 7. When I asked Chris about his inspiration for the subject matter, he told me he painted one just because, and that quickly turned into many, which seemed a natural fit for an exhibit.

infamous – adjective in·fa·mous \ˈin-fə-məs\

  1. 1:  having a reputation of the worst kind: an infamous traitor

  2. 2:  causing or bringing infamy: an infamous crime

  3. 3:  convicted of an offense bringing infamy

As I began to ponder the idea of infamy and look at this portrait of Johnny Cash, It started to click with me just what Chris was up to. Chris told me that this exhibit is much less about the individuals that he paints themselves, as it was the “face” of that person. Johnny Cash was a man with a tremendous gift to tell stories through song. His strong voice is definitely unmatched and completely unique. His hit “I Walk The Line” sat on Billboard’s record charts for 43 weeks and sold over 2 million copies. In 1980, he became the youngest living inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame. After being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he joined an elite club of performers that are in both organizations.

Cash’s infamy came in part from his “bad boy” appearance and the addiction to narcotics that he developed to keep up with his hectic, 300 shows a year schedule that he had in the 1960s. The “Man in Black” kept up his no-nonsense persona even after recovering from addiction. Despite his storied past and outwardly defiant appearance, Cash had a gift that could not go unnoticed. He was the man that, regardless of how you felt about his character, one could not deny the passion and talent that he showcased.

This piece will be sold in a silent auction in conjunction with the art exhibit as a fundraiser to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Madison, Georgia.