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Nick Hutchings working with an art student

Lives of Significance

Nick Hutchings, MFA

The Universe Within

There’s an incredible spiritual universe within each of us that waits to be known. Nick Hutchings, MFA, assistant professor of art, has taught students how to explore it for the past six years—through art and thresholds of novel inquiry. He grew up in the Methodist tradition, the oldest son of an architect and a junior high school science teacher. One taught him how to build, the other how to listen.

His art wrestles with revelations of the head and the heart. In his most recent show at the Williams Art Gallery, titled “What We Know in Part,” visitors were encouraged to spend time being present—to see and touch and read through his intimate collection of prayer journals. Twelve black Moleskine notebooks stood atop a pane of black glass. Each one was filled with sketches, Bible verses and gleanings of his conversations with God. The pages marked with suddenness and brevity—a liminal dwelling place between the energy of the flesh and the power of the spirit whose last reverberations hang like fruit on the vine.

“For me, art is a practice of touching things in parable, in poetic language, places of spirit, places of intuition, passion, of love, of joy that are deeper than our hearts,” he says. “But often our hearts are the vessel that we hear this through. Then our minds, which are order, structure, rule, regulation and law seek an empirical knowledge of something. And art is the place of balance between the two—between an intuition and structure.”

Hutchings’ affinity for material imagination through inhabited space is the place where he walks with God. In addition to the prayer journals, other pieces in the series on display included a combination of ink on vellum and paper, wood and porcelain, and acrylic domes with mirrors and fiber optics.

The title of the show, from a verse in 1 Corinthians 13, is Paul’s hymn of love to the church in Corinth. The principle that unfolds in the surrounding chapters is that a spiritual life is not controlled by the gifts of the spirit, but by the fruits of the spirit. Without them, we can only operate in a counterfeited arena opposite a love that is permanent, expanding and eternal. Paul teaches us that we learn imperfectly, only ever able to see ourselves as a reflection in a mirror—until one day when the light of heaven illuminates faith (to see) and hope (to delight) and the most excellent love: to be fully known.