Lent is the 40 day liturgical season in which the Church as a whole enters into an extended retreat. In Western Christianity, these forty days before Easter are typically marked by fasting and other acts of penance, in order to draw one towards a deeper relationship with God. Today, many Christians choose to give up a favorite food or drink (chocolate and alcohol tops these lists) during this time. They may also decide to take on a Lenten discipline instead, such as devotions, prayer or charity work in a variety of forms.
As an artist, Sonya Berg committed herself in exploring the tension between the hope and chaos of living daily during Lent 2007. For a period of 40 days total/6 days a week [not including Sundays], Berg challenged herself by making a collection of 4” x 4”, abstract squares in a variety of materials and color. She wanted to intertwine the relationship between the art-making process and her personal faith that reflects the beauty of Creation in the imperfect world around us. The final outcome resulted in a beautifully coherent, mixed media body of works birthed out of daily meditation and the utmost discipline.
It is obvious that loads of diligence and hard work went into this project. Each day and square is different: some are more abstract that others; a few exude massive amounts of color, while others present a more monochromatic palate. Berg explains that her art-making process during the 40 days of Lent was not only birthed out of a state of personal meditation, prayer and scripture reading, but also with the audience in mind. These works also serve as a proclamation to presence of the Creator in her life, that art is of great matter and inspires change to help us engage in daily joys and suffering. In this exhibition, Berg has successfully bridged the cultural gap by creating art that is accessible to anyone’s journey in life.
Berg’s works from Lent Journey 2007 was recently on display at the Philadelphia Cathedral. This large Romanesque complex, built in the style of an early Christian basilica, was the appropriate venue for this exhibition. On opposite sides of the nave, starting from the left and working its way around the cathedral, passing the baptistry and to the right, Sonya Berg’s 40 4” x 4” squares were mounted in 10 pairs of 4’s on the walls. Just as the architectural design and furniture prods one to reclaim their Christian roots, the purposeful yet powerful positioning of Berg’s artwork speaks to the journey of exploring the mysteries of faith, which is the call of God in each of our lives.