Arts and Music

Painting Jesus

Before Logan Tanner went to Downtown Rescue Mission for the first time, he thought the people there all fit into the same stereotype: old white men with beards who made the same bad decisions in life. It’s understandable—there are a lot of people out there who don’t understand the complexities of homelessness—but Logan was about to get a much better picture of the men and women who live there. The Lowe-Mill artist was commissioned to do eight biblical murals for Downtown Rescue Mission’s kitchen area and would be spending hours upon hours working on the walls where he would see people as they filed in and out to get a hot meal.

“It’s definitely informed my understanding of who all makes use of the Downtown Rescue Mission and similar services in the city,” Logan said. “It’s a wide range of ages and races and backgrounds and people who are intelligent and conversational and well-adjusted. I just think of it as a place with a bunch of people, just like anywhere else I go in the city.”

John Niemeyer, Director of Food Services at Downtown Rescue Mission, reached out to Lowe Mill after deciding the eating area needed more color. The manager at Lowe Mill recommended Logan because he had painted several murals for Lowe Mill.

Until Logan got his hands on the walls, they were the same yellowish cinderblocks that built the old Westminster-Academy-turned mission. While solid walls are good for keeping students on task, they were drab in the area where so many were coming to eat and fellowship.

Four of the eight murals, each measuring roughly 20-feet-long by 9-feet-wide, are already done. He hopes to have two more done by the end of the year and the others finished in 2018.

Small Town Artist

Logan got his start in Danville. After college, he moved to Isabella, a small town right outside of Clanton. It’s peach country down there with few opportunities for a budding artist.

“It was always something that I’ve done,” Logan said. “Every kid draws. I just kept drawing.”

When he was ready to leave his hometown, he headed to Huntsville to work at Lowe Mill, a mecca for southern artists.

Logan’s style stands out among other artists. Think Edvard Munch’s The Scream meets graffiti street art with an element of realness that makes his work look like it’s done in 3-D, minus the funny glasses. You’ve probably seen his style before. Logan designed the 2017 Panoply poster.

He grew up Southern Baptist and still remembers reading from a big, colorful, children’s Bible. When it was time to paint the murals at the Mission, Logan went back to the Bible to make sure he had every detail correct—who was at each scene, what time of day it was and exactly what went down.

Impact On The Homeless

John and Logan decided on eight images from the life of Jesus: the nativity, baptism of Jesus, Jesus feeding the 5,000, Jesus walking on the water and saving Peter from sinking, the last supper, prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, the crucifixion and the ascension into heaven.

They will run chronologically around the cafeteria so the patrons will be able to see the ministry of Jesus in the order that it happened.

“It’s definitely a room that needed a little bit of light and a little bit of warmth in order to get rid of that institution feel,” Logan said. “So I think the main thing is just—before you even read the images and understand their meaning—is just how much color that it brings to the space and interest it brings to the walls. It makes the space more inviting. I tried to choose scenes from Jesus’ life that were uplifting.”

In some ways, the murals will work like that colorful Bible Logan grew up reading.

“I want them to be very obvious and readable,” Logan said. “I think about medieval times when people weren’t literate, and that was the only way they had of really telling the stories to each other. They would go to church, and they couldn’t read the Bible, but they could see the scenes painted in the church and understand it that way.”

Painting Jesus

Logan made sure his details accurately reflect the Middle East—his representation of Jesus has olive skin tone and dark hair—but familiar enough to make Jesus recognizable.

“He kind of has to have these certain characteristics in order to be identifiable just because He has been represented that way in western cannon for so long,” Logan said. “I did try to keep Him more olive-skinned and darker eyes…I try not to make him look too Nordic because He was a mediterranean Jew, and I think he should look something like that. … It allows more people to identify with Him.”

Logan isn’t the first person to paint these images. In fact, one of the most well-known paintings in history is The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, so it would have been daunting to recreate that image if Logan didn’t have such a great sense of humor about the topic.

“Luckily, Leonardo’s painting is heavily deteriorated, so, hopefully, in a few more years, I won’t have to worry about that competition,” Logan joked.

The Community Journal encourages you to head over to Downtown Rescue Mission to volunteer, donate food and clothes or just check out the murals.

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