When Institute for Religion and Democracy, succumbed to colon cancer on April 18, 2005, she left behind her husband of nearly 33 years.
They were an atypical evangelical power couple. Diane had just made Washington’s home-grown Michelangelo — a painter of larger-than-life biblical scenes known for their physicality and passion.
But his nude Davids, Bathshebas, Indiana, there were so many complaints from students and the outside community that the college closed the exhibit after five days.
“Some Christians tend to be orthodox in their theology but emotionally they are gnostics,” he told me last week. “They do not like that physical stuff. But we have an incarnational religion and you have to get past that. In art, we can come to grips with our physicality and human possibilities in our body. That’s all we have here.”
The general public has been more accepting. While at Union Station in February 1999, I saw his work of a 16-foot crucifix, with a nude Christ in agonies thereupon, standing in the middle of the great hall as part of a “Hope in the City” exhibition.
“It was quite well received,” Ed told me. “One man who was running to catch a train tried to walk away but he kept on coming back to it. ‘I grew up Catholic, and if I’d seen paintings like this,’ he said, ‘it would have made a difference.’”
Diane’s death at age 53 also made a difference.
“I am so much more aware of the larger universe in which we live,” he said. “That other world is right there. We just can’t see it. It’d overwhelm us in our present state. They are in a different state and time there. Diane, as far as she is concerned, may have been gone two seconds.”
After she died, he asked God what to do next, even if it meant laying down his art.
“The Lord has been so faithful and has guided me,” Ed said. “He said, ‘No, I want you to continue to do what you’re doing.’”
Thanks to his friends, “I barely got depressed one or two times,” he added. “I have been sad, very sad, but not depressed.”
His latest works, which can be seen at www.edknippers. com, show Titian-esque scenes of the Annunciation, the sacrifice of Isaac and other biblical highlights. Heavenly beings, painted in the abstract, are bathed in light.
Diane is in one called “Jacob’s Ladder.” She sits in the shadows to the right, her gaze trained on Jacob, a hand reaching out to comfort him.
“It’s cubist,” he said, referring to an art form that shows objects and people in constant movement. “I am using it as a metaphor for seeing the glimmer behind the veil.”
He has some of his smaller works at the Foxhall Gallery in Northwest. A series of 18 woodcuts on the theme of “Fear Naught but God” is on display at the White Stone Gallery in Philadelphia.