Religious Art En Vogue

Article excerpt

Sales figures are up fop aPtwoPk depicting religious themes and comforting scenes of nature and family -- a trend that mirrors the popularity of heavenly minded movies such as What Dreams May Come and City of Angels.

Americans seeking hope in a troubled world are turning to soothing artwork as a balm for their jangled nerves. Frayed and weary connoisseurs are snapping up paintings such as Journey by Mary Crittenden of Yreka, Calif., which depicts two children emerging from a dark forest onto a lighted path, and Temple Gateway by William Doran of Seattle, where two moons in a starry sky illuminate a temple's columns.

"Overwhelmed by job stress, economic and social pressures, the invasive beat of the media and the pervasive presence of technology, many people are looking for something simple, quiet and comforting to hold on to," says Gerald Celente, director of the Trends Research Institute in Rhinebeck, N.Y.

"Inspirational art," a melange of feel-good illustrations loaded with New Age or traditional religious themes, is hot. The genre falls into two categories, explains Celente: that which celebrates God or that which helps viewers "search for the God within themselves."

The second category applies to Doran's work, which explores spiritual energy. A Gathering of Masters, for example, shows spirit guides helping individuals through the "crystal stair of our life experience." Says Doran, "Masters gives us the image that we are linked to another dimension of beings who help guide our way." His paintings, showcased in a virtual gallery on the Internet, appeals to members of generation X, who tend to search for truth in unusual places. "Gen Xers are not looking to organized religion," he says, "but to a new wave of consciousness of the spirituality in their lives."

Merchants in the religious-retail business are reporting the same phenomenon. For the first time in its history, the annual Christian Booksellers Association trade fair devoted a separate section to bric-a-brac, art and clothing imprinted with spiritual mottoes. "Our home decor sales are up 45 percent from last year because inspirational art is selling rapidly," says Michael Hupp, senior gift buyer for Family Christian Store, a retail chain based in Grand Rapids, Mich. …