Artist Roger Schnarr, visiting from Toronto, was very enthusiastic about Roland’s paintings and its accompanying catalogue. Roger felt that the Lord influenced the artist to create these twenty-five colourful gems in a uniquely simple way bringing understanding to the complex spiritual symbolism of the Book of Revelation. He said that Roland had brought one of the most mysterious books of the Bible to life. The paintings invited thoughtful study without being excessively grotesque, often a problem in depictions of John’s visions. Roger particularly liked the painting called, “Rider on a White Horse,” subtly labelled, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, in Roland’s incomparable calligraphy.
A group of Bryn Athyn artists came to study the works and several went home with copies of the catalogue. They were intrigued not only by the paintings’ subject matter but by Roland’s technique and the materials he used in unique ways: pen and ink, watercolour washes, markers, pencil crayons and even a little glitter. Looking for the influence of other artists in Roland’s work, Mantegna and Chagall, for example, was another focus of their visit. They also appreciated the fact that none of Roland’s angels have wings, that they come in both genders, and that they are depicted in all shapes and sizes and wear quite a variety of contemporary clothing and hairstyles. Many viewers were delighted with the strong angel who spoke with a loud voice. He was using a microphone!
For visiting children we provided two pages of Roland’s works for colouring, the black and white outlines only. The children enthusiastically added the colours they liked. Some groups of young people were challenged to find a guillotine, locusts, frogs or a supersonic jet in the paintings.
When these objects were found the teacher had an opportunity to read a relevant passage or two from the Book of Revelation and talk a little about the deeper meaning of the objects. Another quest was to discover how many times the Holy City was portrayed (three times) and how many times the tree of life and the river of the water of life were depicted (four times each). A visual challenge for both children and adults was to look carefully at the painting called, “Holy City as a Bride,” and to let the city emerge as a transparent, golden cube, “clear as crystal.” Most of us saw a flat, gold hexagon the first time we looked.
Over the duration of the exhibition, we sold out of the catalogue twice. Several who bought a copy planned to use the pictures and the accompanying text as a tool for meditation or perhaps the basis for a spiritual study group.
In conjunction with the exhibition, we were honoured to have Rev Dr James Lawrence speak at Glencairn. Dr Lawrence teaches at the Pacific School of Religion of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, where he is also the Dean of the Swedenborgian House of Studies. The title of his illustrated talk was, “The Book of Revelation: End of the Bible and End of the World?” Jim traced the history of how the Book of Revelation has been viewed over the last two millennia and ended by referencing several of Roland’s works, Swedenborgian paintings from the beginning of the third millennium. We were also privileged to hear from Rev Dr Andrew Dibb, Dean of the Bryn Athyn College Theological School. In his talk, titled, “The Changing Face of the Lord,” Dr Dibb used several of Roland’s paintings to show that the Lord does not change, but people change in relation to Him.