I always enjoy when an artist takes a classic tale and places it in a modern backdrop. It is beneficial, I believe, because it allows us to see the story from a new perspective. By wading into the vision of the artist, we can be touched in a new way as he or she captures and conveys a universal message to their audience.
N.T. Wright explains it like this:
“A familiar story told with a twist in the tail jolts people into thinking differently about themselves and the world. A story told with pathos, humor or drama opens the imagination and invites the readers and hearers to imagine themselves in similar situations, offering new insights about God and human beings which enable them to order their lives more wisely.”
Adam Nettesheim, with his work titled A New York Nativity, seeks to open our eyes to the possibility of Jesus’ birth happening all around us. Rather than placing the Holy Family in what has become the charming setting of a cattle stall, he shocks our sensibilities by placing them under the shelter of a bridge in New York’s central park and encourages us to see the story of God sending light into darkness as it might play out in our world today.
I like this painting because it really causes me to stop and think on so many different levels.
Firstly I see the Holy family as they might have been on that faith-filled night: tired, cold, dirty and not really sure who they could trust as they cling tightly to one another. They are protecting God’s gift of love, holding the baby Jesus closely as they are new missionaries and really have no idea what might be expected of them next.
This then leads me to wonder about how I see myself in this picture? Have I always been openly sharing God’s love with those around me? or have I felt nervous and afraid of what might be expected of me as I travel further and further out of my comfort zone.
Then I see the group on the right, the lower class people who are homeless people and street musicians coming to see the baby Jesus and I rejoice at the fact that the shepherds where among the first to celebrate with great joy the blessing of God’s son. Through Adam’s vision, I can see how people who are experiencing poverty of all kinds, are quicker to see and understand the need of this little family. Seeing them there reminds me of Jesus’ story of the “Good Samaritan” who did not cross to the other side of the road or rush on when he saw the man beaten and robbed and left for dead. I am reminded of how the outcasts despite their obvious lack and fear, are still coming forward to see the need and be blessed by the Holy Family of God.
The wisemen represented by the elites standing in the background…
The symbol of the star a top the empire state building in the distance…are among the many themes resonating through this work.
I encourage you to meet Adam and hear him talk about his painting.
Adam’s art piece titled “A New York City Nativity” is now for sale through Fine Art America.com. All profits received from the sales will be sent to “Save the Children” for their work in the refugee camps taking care of families and children displaced by the Syrian crisis.
You might also consider donating to this effort directly: savethechildren.org.
Meet Adam Nettesheim:
I have a wide variety of experience in media. I feel that media can be used to make the world a better place. Sometimes that can be done through sharing thought provoking or soul inspiring work, and sometimes it can be done by making people laugh. I love creating art and telling stories (preferably both at the same time).
Adam is a regular contributor to God thru the Arts Facebook and creator of the The Witness Cloud True Myths Facebook page and podcast series.