Mural artist speaks for himself

Kent Twitchell, artist of the Jesus mural, addressed at Monday’s chapel the controversy surrounding his artwork. “I wanted people to look at it and be touched by it,” he said.

Amy Ortega, Writer

Los Angeles is known as “The City of Angels” and thanks to muralist Kent Twitchell, it is also known for its breathtaking, larger-than-life murals. Over his long career, Twitchell has focused his work on cultural heroes that are from his hometown, Los Angeles. He is the artist of our Jesus Mural named “The Word,” located in the center of our campus and in the midst of much discussion on the art, Twitchell honored Biola with his presence on Monday to start off our “Love, Justice and Jesus” weeklong series.

Monday morning’s chapel helped students understand the artist more and clear up any rumors or questions about him. Twitchell painted “The Word” on the Bardwell building as a gift, because it is at the center of Biola’s campus and because he “wanted the center of this campus to be the Bible, the Word and Christ,” according to Twitchell.

“I wanted people to look at it and be touched by it,” Twitchell said to President Corey. But Twitchell never in his wildest dreams imagined his artwork to generate such a controversy.

When Twitchell was asked when he first heard about the controversies about his gift to us, he said “it hit me like a lightning rod.” How could an image of the Son of God cause division on a Christian campus?

Twitchell painted a Latino Jesus on 111th Street and Vermont Ave. in Los Angeles on a Korean Liquor store, but the image was reported to help create unity and peace amongst the barrios. So the question is, how could this image create the very opposite?

“For a long time, I didn’t really attend things at Biola,” Twitchell said. “You get the feeling that you’re not really very welcome -— I don’t feel welcome here.”

He shared after reading some conversations on Facebook about the Jesus Mural he felt that his piece generated hate and most of the things weren’t very kind. He was confused that one of his works of art would create something like this.

“That wall demanded that mural,” Twitchell said. “I thought it would be safe to have a giant Christ here. It’s discouraging. I just don’t know what to think of it.”

Twitchell compared the criticisms of the Jesus Mural to the spray painters that vandalize his artwork on the streets of L.A.

“How would you feel if the mural would be taken down?” junior Colin Cabalka asked Twitchell in Monday morning’s luncheon.

“It would be a disappointment in so many ways that art would not be safe on a major Christian campus,” Twitchell responded. “It would be a bad signal to the rest of the world.”

When Twitchell heard that a young lady in a recent feature commented that the “Jesus [mural] is a reminder that [He] is bigger than any struggle that [they] have,” he encouraged listeners that art and images like these bring him closer to Christ but they shouldn’t be relied on for our walk with Christ. He also encourages students to be open-minded to the chapels offered this week and be open to other viewpoints.

“Diversity and open-mindedness have gone by the wayside,” Twitchell said.

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