Artist, Theologian, and Teacher
October marked two years with Jonathan Anderson, our postdoctoral fellow in visual art and theology. Anderson has been an invaluable addition to our program and the life of the Divinity School.
He is both a visual artist and leading scholar in the field of visual art and theology. His teaching has enhanced the life of DITA’s academic community, and his research continues to contribute a meaningful perspective in the field of contemporary art. As he says in a recent article, “Within the vast and varied scholarship of contemporary art, the relations between conceptual art and religion generally have not received careful investigation.” Anderson seeks to adjust this by investigating and revealing theological influences and implications in contemporary art through critical and constructive research.
This commitment is evident in the classroom as well. His trademark courses in the certificate program seek to develop, in his words, “a richer, more historically extended theological imagination in the visual arts.” He is currently teaching “Visual Art as Theology,” which explores the diverse histories of Christian art and architecture as domains of constructive theological reasoning. His second course, “Contemporary Art and Theology,” conducts a rereading of some major streams of 20th- and 21st-century art by paying closer attention to how they are shaped by religious contexts and operate in theological terms.
His teaching is illuminating, engaging, and theologically essential. In the words of one of his students, “Dr. Anderson’s class was one of the best I have ever taken, and it was deeply enriching to my understanding of theology as a discipline. I now think a theological education is incomplete without some understanding of visual theology.”
They especially appreciate his background as a practitioner. Anderson is an accomplished visual artist and has thorough knowledge of a variety of visual mediums, though he is known professionally for his oil paintings on canvas. In his work, he explores historical events and communal occasions as well as how the forms of construction and nature collide.
“Every time I leave one of Dr. Anderson’s Visual Art as Theology classes, I experience the world through an explosion of my senses,” says Nicole Kallsen, certificate student ’24. “Light, color, space, and composition are not just something to be seen on a slide; it is a way to view the world that must be practiced.”
Anderson’s work is not only for artists and academics. He is on the editorial advisory board of Image journal, where his work is published for a wider audience, and he regularly gives talks and interviews which present art and theology to a broader audience.
We are grateful he has spent these past two years at DITA and have rejoiced in seeing the fruits of his labor unfold here at Duke Divinity School. Scroll down to learn more about his art, teaching, and research. Visit his website to see his full portfolio, published work, and interviews.
Found, 2012, oil on canvas with unpainted strip from corner to corner “The Strange Persistence of Religion in Contemporary Art” // Interview with James Elkins // Image 110 (Fall 2021): 48–62. “Conceptual Art, Theology, and Re-Presentation” // Religions 13, no. 10 (2022): 984. Modern Art and the Life of a Culture: The Religious Impulses of Modernism // Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016.
Found, 2012, oil on canvas with unpainted strip from corner to corner
“The Strange Persistence of Religion in Contemporary Art” // Interview with James Elkins // Image 110 (Fall 2021): 48–62.
“Conceptual Art, Theology, and Re-Presentation” // Religions 13, no. 10 (2022): 984.
Modern Art and the Life of a Culture: The Religious Impulses of Modernism // Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016.