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I remember when I first stumbled across the work of artist Devi Anne Moore years ago. Her treasures surfaced during a personal pilgrimage, a mostly futile search for interesting, contemporary, Christian art. Pickings seemed slim in those days; the Internet was an undependable infant, and communications between like-minded artists required antique devices such as telephones or actual, personal encounters.
Finding Moore’s massive presentation of apocalyptic works “Seven Sevens” resurrected my belief that new works of extraordinary spiritual art were not only possible, but undeniably existed. My evidence was the 49 tiny images on my computer screen, blurred but holding a promise of beauty, vision, depth and excellence of work.
Moore’s series of mixed-medium pieces is vast in scale, mix of materials and biblical reference. It’s an undertaking of love and spiritual devotion she began in the 1970s that received some publicity and acclaim but is underappreciated to this day.
After a “dramatic encounter with the Lord” at 17, Moore felt moved to express the entire Book of Revelation through art. The Revelation of St. John, with its bizarre, perplexing and sometimes terrifying poetic imagery, has been a fertile source of creativity for artists and writers since its creation 2,000 years ago.
Not an undertaking for the faint of heart, Moore seriously studied the Bible in preparation, using apocalyptic writings and other Scripture as a base for her works. She often emphasizes Jewish background and history according to Romans 11. Moore claims she is “always inspired” by the Bible, finding new insights after many readings.
“No other writing does that for me,” she adds.
Why “seven-sevens”? Freeing herself from previous teaching and “didactic interpretation,” an innate structure of sevens began to manifest itself in her thoughts. Seven bowls, letters, seals, trumpets, interludes, women and thrones ended up populating her 21-year-in-the-making “vision.” Depending on prayer and meditation, Moore used whatever props and images that came up, believing they weren’t “coincidental.” She describes that period as challenging, intimidating but strangely peaceful.
Some of the most interesting pieces are her “Letters,” referring to Christ’s letters to the churches, presented as altarpieces or elaborate boxes building a physical space. Resemblance to a traditional altarpiece is only superficial, in the chest shapes, doors opening onto deeper scenes, and sometimes gilt or other ornament. Each letter/sculpture is entirely unique and, while consistent in style, is loyal first to the apocalyptic message, which is Moore’s concern.
To the church of Ephesus, who is warned to “remember therefore from whence you have fallen,” she creates a striking, simple design on its closed doors. A forlorn, white heart tumbles into a chasm between towering cliffs. Miniscule details lay out Moore’s thoughts on the passage, snakes and reptiles almost hidden from view, and a translucent bridge offering precarious passage. Symbolic scenery, but certainly not a simple illustration.
Moore’s “Thrones” series is extremely innovative, with virtually none of them resembling pieces of furniture but dealing with deep spiritual concepts. If I had to verbally describe Throne 7 or “River of Life in New Jerusalem” it would be a cross between a mixed media, 3-D quilt and complex Arabic floor tiling. She incorporates 12 clam shells embedded with various things and repeat circular checkerboard patterns along with the elements of water.
Moore’s work is unusual in contemporary Christian art, which often falls into one of two camps. The first and most popular with the majority of churches are the traditional, illustrative styles, which plainly spell it out for the congregation with little embellishment or imaginative touches. Sunday school booklets and murals might fall into this category.
The second group is “high” contemporary art, often involving technology, minimalism or abstraction to the point where there is no discernable message or subject, but a contemplative point or design. This art is most likely to find its way into a modern gallery.
Unlike either of the above, Moore’s work hearkens back to tradition and incorporates traditional painting techniques, which she loves. But that’s just a launching point for her as she embellishes with odds and ends, distorts persons, objects and the supports she paints on all in sublimation to her goals and message. There is a further transformation as “letters” become physical boxes, “bowls” are composed of exploding shards of materials and a “woman” resembles an ornamental gyroscope.
Although laced with discernible objects, Moore’s uses them entirely symbolically to “produce visual poetry.” She rejects any notion that the work must be only literal and realistically rendered, using objects in an abstracted manner or as she says, “the Word made visual.”
Moore hopes to provoke viewers to contemplate a very difficult Bible passage through these images, making it more applicable to their lives. She contrasts universal themes to personal, explicit to the implicit and the symbol to the point of its departure.
Physically the 49 pieces are constructed from canvas and metals, carpeting, luan board, seaweed, buttons, stained glass, oil paints and a host of other things. Dimensions run from approximately two feet across for closed “Letters” to an 8-foot painting in the “Women” series.
“I do a lot of constructive, 3-D bas-relief,” said Moore from Chesapeake, Va. “The works sit flat on the wall,” with surfaces protruding.
In the decades since Moore produced this visual revelation, she has won awards from the Billy Graham Art Museum and has pieces in area museums and churches. One exhibit was a national tour organized through Sister Wendy Beckett, the famed British contemplative nun, art expert and BBC presenter. Moore’s work was one of a few finalists from thousands of international submissions. Still it was only recently that a series was sold. Sid Roth of the Messianic Vision ministries is displaying the “7 Interludes” in his private offices now.
Speaking of theology, Moore has several advanced degrees in art and Bible and currently is an adjunct professor at Regent University. She shares her happiness “to have that platform” to teach art in missions and apply art to any type of outreach or profession.
So why isn’t this woman famous? That’s probably too complicated for here, but the Cliff Notes version would be a lack of support for excellent, professional artists in the church and lack of a religious market in secular venues.
Moore, however, stresses that the galleries, museums and other secular groups have been far more receptive to “Seven Sevens” and her work in general. She adds that she’s had “very little support from church, which is sad, but I choose to not be offended.” This is no big surprise, but we can always hope it will change.
Moore sells an eBook version of work on her website, www.tav.org, which includes high quality reproductions of her works along with personal insight, biblical reference and history.