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Review: A Slice of Heaven (and Hell) at LUMA

Whether you’re a believer or not, HEAVEN+HELL, a thoughtfully crafted exhibit that runs through June 30 at the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) and Intuit, is bound to make you consider it, even if for just a moment.

Even though most of the pieces are Christian-centric, the variety of materials and means of expression creates a colorful, comprehensive portraitof what’s above clouds and below the ground in the mind of most Westerners.

In “Heaven,” a 12-by-9-foot acrylic on canvas painting, William Thomas Thompson tries to convey a message received from a vision of the Christ more than a decade ago. Going by the artist’s piece, heaven is much like life itself: an amalgam of everything found on Earth.

Photo by Ricardo Rosa

Co-curator Molly Tarbell says most pieces are inspired by the words in the Book of Revelation, the apocalyptic final book of the New Testament, which is true – but only in part. Most heaven and hell representations seem to come from deeply personal beliefs, done by artists who have had a long-term relationship with their faith, like Sister Gertrude Morgan and Purvis Young.

One of the most prominent artists is Ernest “Popeye” Reed, whose collection of carved sandstone pieces brings depth and serenity to all four galleries of the exhibit. Another is Lorenzo Scott, whose depiction of heaven tries to explain pains of reality, as if to make life more bearable.

It’s interesting – but not surprising – that several works are half-heaven half-hell, some with images of the purgatory in between. Others venture into non-mainstream concepts, like the work by artists Louis Monza and Minnie Evans, which illustrate heaven with fantastic creatures and plants.

A handful of pieces are from unknown artists, like “Angel Appear to Lost Soul at Sea,” an intriguing 1966 oil on canvas. A favorite – and slightly controversial – piece is “Fairy Wing Angel Choir,” by Fred Webster.

In all, 80 carefully selected artworks are sure to take you to both hell and heaven, while you sit at church benches placed around the galleries, perhaps as a subtle indication you should ponder your sins.

The exhibit at LUMA also has its own gift shop, with works such as “The Book: A History of the Bible” (Phaidon, 2001), and “1001 Pearls of Buddhist Wisdom” (Chronicle Books, 2006), which can be wrapped in a cross or angel-themed paper for no additional cost.

It’s worth stopping by on a low-afternoon to peek at what possibly awaits for you in afterlife.


HEAVEN+HELL – Through June 30


Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA)

820 N Michigan Ave

(312) 915-7600



756 N Milwaukee Ave

(312) 243- 9088

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