Congregants now familiar with the recently renovated sanctuary of Laguna Presbyterian Church this Sunday will encounter its latest addition, a specially commissioned work of art by Laguna Beach artist and church member Mia Moore. Titled “Grace Lifts Me Over the Mountain,” the work consists of three 2.5 x 4 foot panels hung along the stairwell leading to Tankersley Hall.
Viewers familiar with Moore’s style might expect a variant of her Asian-inspired work, but this time she took her inspiration from the Bible’s Psalm 121. She embedded excerpts into the composition. “…I lift my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth…,” words the artist says she lives by, instilling a feeling of grace and connectedness to the Creator.
“To many this piece will be a surprise even though it is still in my style,” said Moore, a 17-year Festival of Arts exhibitor. “I have used pages from old Bibles, one dating back to the 17th century and old book covers that I found during my travels or in used book stores.” She also uses acrylic paint and has mounted the collage onto linen canvas rather than board. “Unlike many collages, this one will not be shown behind glass,” she emphasized.
She is careful to point out that, although she also used illuminated manuscripts and liberal amounts of gold leaf in this work, most paper is recycled and books were already damaged in some form. “I prefer old paper for its weight and texture and touch.” She says that most of her materials are bought during regular trips abroad. Moore often uses special stains to darken the paper into an even more antique finish. She said that every component of the work is archival, meaning that it will not deteriorate with time or be altered by variants of temperature or light.
A 25-year member of the church, she also served two separate three-year terms as a deacon. Moore first presented a small conceptual sketch of the triptych to the church’s Open Door Committee, which supervised the multi-year, $13 million retrofitting of the sanctuary, completed in December 2009.
“My project took about two years to evolve from inception to completion since I was occupied with family matters and also had to work on my other art projects,” she said. “I prayed over it a lot and what emerged was the 121st Psalm.”
Even so, a homage to her 93-year-old mother is also embedded in the piece. “My mother is struggling with health problems and when I worked, she was on my mind a lot.”
Twenty-six years ago, Moore moved to Laguna Beach from Portland, Ore., with her husband Jon, who then worked for a savings and loan. More recently, he was ordained as a pastor and now works for China Source, a mission organization, said Moore
Nevertheless, her mother deserves the credit for instilling what has become the artist’s signature style. “My mother is artistic and loves Asian things a lot,” she said. Fascination with Asian culture took on new intensity when the couple adopted an infant daughter from Korea. “I became completely immersed in Korean culture when we raised Emilia. Studying and talking about the culture became a part of our lives,” she recalled.
With “Grace” finished, Moore is working feverishly to get art completed for summer. “I work constantly, getting an entire body of work done in snippets,” she said. “Art can make you reclusive but I find meeting people and talking about the art at the Festival invigorating.”
“Grace Lifts Me Over the Mountain” will be on view during the 8:30 and 10 a.m. service. Moore will be available for questions between 9:30 and 10 a.m. and will conduct a docent tour at 11:30 a.m. www.lagunapreschurch.org