I have never met Cindy Kiple. I had to go to Google Reader and scroll to the copyright page of my yet-to-be-released book to even figure out her name. She is the designer of the book’s cover. I would love to know about the creative process, the decision-making and artistic tweaks and revisions behind the scenes. She may design so many books she would not even remember this one.
I am afraid I am about to do something that folks do in museums and galleries, something dangerous, exciting, and strangely permissible. I am about to provide an interpretation of visual art without the insight of the artist. Here is how I discern how her design presents the vision of Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint…
The eye is drawn to the young man (I hope no one mistakes him for me—I am not hip enough to pull off the monochromatic thing with a hat). The white is stark in the gray-black-earthy environs. His clothing is bright, just ethereal enough with the contrasting surroundings to convey that he is a “saint” (in the New Testament sense, not in the sense of saint-veneration). He is saintly by virtue of his bright clothing… and also by his direction. He is walking toward a church.
But this is a “cynic-saint.” Though he plods toward the church, his face is turned away. There is reluctance, perhaps born out of disgust or suspicion. Maybe disillusionment. And if you can see the image clearly enough, you will notice that the church is stark and dark. The architectural austerity and fixity make it an unavoidable and immovable destination along the road. The windows of the church are dark. No warm light oozing through translucent stained glass. But this foreboding monolith is the destination. This is where the road leads. So the movement of the young man is a movement of internal friction and external uncertainty… but yet there is persistence, somehow, in that he nonetheless moves onward. The hyphenation in “cynic-saint” implies movement. It is the movement toward something good and hopeful in spite of grim realities.
The idea of time seems prevalent in the picture. By the length of the shadow and the glint of the sunlight on the ground, it is clearly dusk. Maybe there is a sense of urgency as night approaches. Maybe there is eschatological warning or yearning. Maybe the church building will offer refuge in the dark. But maybe the church itself is too dark to be fitting shelter from any night. Even so, the cynic-saint edges onward.
Cindy: amazing work. I love it.