In a cozy beachside gallery/artist loft in Galveston, Texas, newlywed artist couple Jamie and Jeremy Wells are boldly telling stories of faith. Huge canvases declare redemption and grace in unashamed beauty and point to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the source. Their gallery/home is called Imago Dei (Image of God), and it’s easy to see why: Jamie’s art is breathtaking. Pictures of the adulterous woman as she is caught in the act and scenes of children in Africa living in poverty embellish their 18-foot-tall walls. Imago Dei is one way in which they serve their community through art, by painting murals and faux finishes in residential and commercial spaces, “as a means to be able to do what we love and support ourselves,” Jeremy explained.
In addition to owning and operating Imago Dei (artworship.org) with her husband, Jamie voluntarily serves as Visual Arts Pastor of Ecclesia, a young church plant in Houston’s downtown arts district, Montrose. At Ecclesia (ecclesiahouston.org), individuals are given the chance to worship through art during the music and message, creating the holistic worship experience now widely known as “art worship.”
“One discipline of art that we believe God speaks to us through is contemplative painting,” Jamie said, “for in doing so we can express to God the beautiful and oftentimes ugly things which we did not even know existed within us.”
Art worship isn’t a concept Jamie invented; the concept came from God. “If everything was created to give praise to God, then what we as artists are doing is completely worshipful. God created man in His image. God desires man to reflect the character traits God himself possesses. With art worship we humbly attempt to put on canvas a living creation that is spinning wildly within us just as the cosmos once spun into place so long ago,” Jamie explained. Jamie and Jeremy also oversee Ecclesia’s art center, Xnihilo (to create out of nothing) in Montrose. The space offers local and regional artists a stage upon which they may stand and speak of God’s salvation through art and creativity.
Growing up in Houston, Jamie always wanted to be an artist. She developed the desire to “do art for God” and eventually graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, where she describes that desire as being “smashed” by anti-God professors. She followed God’s call back to Houston where she became involved in youth ministry while also pursuing her artistic interests. “I wasn’t doing either well because I couldn’t commit either way,” she confessed. While seeking God’s direction, Jamie was introduced to Chris Seay, a young pastor who was starting a church in Houston. Of their first meeting, Jamie recalls, “[Seay] was the first person since I graduated art school that could look at my work and critique it and talk to me intellectually and have insight and challenge me.” Seay first invited Jamie to Ecclesia, his new church, and then asked her to share her gifts with the church by painting during the worship service. Jamie described the painting she did as “the worst painting I’ve ever done in my whole life, but it was the most freeing piece because that’s where God released me. That was the birthing of art in the church for me.”
Jamie and Jeremy met at Oneday at Shelby Farms, outside of Memphis, Tenn., in May 2000, where Jamie was responsible for the oversight of an art worship project that had come to her in a vision from God. This art worship experience at Oneday, where tens of thousands of college students had gathered for a day of prayer for our nation, was Jeremy’s first experience with using his artistic gifts as a form of worship. Jeremy recalled, “I was ready to give up the arts altogether. God birthed something new in me at that point and allowed me to use these gifts to glorify Him.” Two years later, Jamie and Jeremy were married.
Their love for God and art shines through everything they say. Jamie and Jeremy described their ministry as teaching others how they can worship God through artistic expression. Jamie shared some photographs recently taken in Florida, where they traveled with the Robbie Seay Band and led high school students in art worship. Many of these pictures show paintings created in worship by these young artists. One photo of a particularly striking painting is crude in its simplicity yet expressive in its revelation of the artist’s heart. Simple line drawings depicted heartfelt images: a child crying out “Daddy!” and Jesus with His arms open wide and explaining, “My child, everything happens for a reason.” As Jamie has explained, “True confession = forgiveness = liberation. So in art we speak to God, but really all along He was speaking to us.”[Jamie Wells is profiled in the current issue of RELEVANT magazine, available now.]
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