Last week in one of my postings I spoke of the extraordinarily beautiful project called The St. John’s Bible. To mark the turn of the millennium, St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, commissioned the first hand written and illuminated Bible since the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. The posting detailed this project together with images taken from the Bible itself.
Over 40 years ago, in my first assignment as a priest at Holy Family Parish in Orange, I met a wonderfully gifted artist by the name of Michael Johnson. Michael was a professor at one of the local Community Colleges here in Orange County. With the ongoing development and sophistication of technology, Michael became fascinated with the use of computers and digitization at the service of the visual arts. I was fortunate to witness the ongoing development and sophistication of his craft that continues to produce stunning effects.
Inspired by classic illuminated manuscripts that predate printing, since 1991 Michael has been designing an original digitally illuminated image each year, combining a scriptural text in Latin for his annual Christmas card. A very limited number of these images are enlarged for framing. I have been blessed to be the recipient each year of one of these incredible images.
For anyone familiar with the world of digital technology, a quantum leap of development and sophistication has transpired since 1991 and today. That refinement is reflected each year in these digital masterpieces.
In December of 2016, the Orange Review did a fine article on Michael’s work which can be accessed here. In addition, Michael maintains a dedicated website, Capio Lumen, that highlights his portfolio with incredibly stunning images of his work.
A fine introduction to Michael and his work, on the site, summarizes the focus of his work over the years with this inspiring project:
Capio Lumen, Latin for capture light, is a pseudonym used by Michael Johnson when publishing his art. Michael, a Professor Emeritus in the Media Arts Design Department at Cypress College, was finally able to create his pieces full-time in his Old Town Orange studio home after 38 years of college teaching. His master’s degree is in painting and drawing, and he has studied various forms of art including paintings created during the Renaissance and Gothic periods, as well as illuminated manuscripts. He incorporates various Christian art symbols into his artwork, like flowers, butterflies, fruit, and birds. He is keenly aware that “the beautiful” reflects the transcendent. The Latin text is used as an element of continuity within his manuscripts paintings. Michael’s art, as most religious art, becomes visual theology.