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February 2012

Meet Matthew Nelson, Artist-in-Residence

"I hate preachy art," said Matthew Nelson, Luther Seminary's current artist-in-residence. "That sort of saccharin sweet art makes my teeth hurt. I want God to be in my art, but it took me years to figure out how to do that. Now I get to continue to play with the idea of how to do Christian art on the sly."

A part of that exploration for Nelson recently involved a three-month series of paintings using only square shapes. "I was experimenting with how pared down I could get and speak of God without explicitly speaking of God," Nelson said. "It was an incredible challenge to work only with squares, something so rigid in limitation. I had to ask myself, 'How is God being expressed in shape and color, and can I relegate that expression to such simple shapes on paper?'"

Nelson is currently working on a triptych piece (a work of art divided into three panels) for Luther Seminary's Prodigal Son collection. One piece will  feature the father on his knees in the dirt hugging his returned son. "That scene in the parable reminds me of when I was painting in my studio years  ago and my daughter was helping me paint," Nelson said. "With her hand covered in red acrylic she patted my face and said, 'I love you Daddy.' I left the paint on because I loved her enough to get dirty. I think God is the same way."

As artist-in-residence, Nelson will prepare two art shows in addition to the piece for Luther Seminary's Prodigal Son collection. When he isn't working in his art studio in the Burntvedt student apartments on campus, Nelson can be found working on his Master of Arts degree in congregational mission and leadership and on his ordination for diaconal ministry.

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