A Winnipeg science teacher is hoping "to provide people with the hope that even though we are in a liminal time of no-longer-this & not-yet-that, nevertheless peace can still reign in our hearts." And, he's doing it through art.
Andrew Hiebert is a senior physics & chemistry teacher at MBCI in Winnipeg, teaching chemistry and physics, as well as a professional artist. For Hiebert, science draws him closer to God and understanding God.
"What I love about physics is it asks the deep question of 'why?' I think physics is as close as science gets us to really sort of addressing some of the God questions and it's really awesome. What I try to instill in my students is that science, many people think that science is sort of drawing people away from God, but for me, it feels like science draws people to God, as they have to really confront the wonder and the intelligence and the symmetry and beauty of it all."
Science and art seem to be the perfect pairing for the teacher, with art also an easy way to draw people to God and invite them into a contemplative approach to faith.
"That's what I'm hoping: that when people come to the exhibit, I can just nudge them a little bit closer towards not only peace but ultimately to the Prince of Peace."
Hiebert opens a month-long exhibit on his works, called Nevertheless Peace, on September 1.
"Created in the midst of the pandemic, the art asks a timely question," a press release on the upcoming show says. "Given this liminal time of personal upheaval, economic uncertainty, pandemic, and the war in Ukraine, is it possible to nevertheless have peace? The last couple of years have seen a rise in the incidence of anxiety. It seems peace, even inner peace, is becoming more elusive, and Hiebert’s work offers a way to help foster that peace. The concept of peace taps into one of Hiebert’s deep Mennonite values, one that is shared amongst most sacred traditions."
Watch the full interview here:
The paintings featured in the show came from the inspiration of a flower bulb encased in wax that seemingly not only survived but thrived without any outside help.
"I bought a wax bulb amaryllis. It's a bulb covered in wax and you just put it on your counter and you just leave it," he says. "You don't water it, you don't put it in soil, you don't do anything to it. As the season went on, I bought it in November, as the season went on in December, it started to grow and grow and grow. And then before Christmas, it started to bloom and it bloomed and it bloomed and it bloomed. And there was never a drop of water and never any soil. It kept blooming and blooming and blooming; it was one bloom and then two blooms. And like, this thing is absolutely gorgeous."
Hiebert was struck by the flower's power to bloom into something beautiful in the midst of seemingly impossible circumstances.
"I just thought, 'it is doing this all without what is the normal nutrients.' Like, nevertheless it's been denied so many things and nevertheless, it's still pumping out beauty. And I just found that as a deeply instructive thing as to how, in spite of external circumstances, beauty can still come from within and God can cause us to have that flow inside out, regardless, or nevertheless, and so I decided to paint it."
From there the theme of God at work despite external circumstances continued to inspire Hiebert
"I just thought, it's just too incredible. So it led to a second, a third, a fourth, a fifth. Then I did a series of six of them that looks very just kind of in this vein at different flowers at different stages. And then just sort of unravelled from there, this idea that You know the internal ocus is way more important than the external and that we can still bring beauty, we can still act in love, we can still reach out and be kind, regardless of what anybody else or whatever the world, is doing around us."
The science teacher/artist says the exhibit is especially perfect for people who have found the last two years difficult with the pandemic, wars raging, and violent crime overwhelming stories in our news cycle.
"This whole exhibit is for people who are experiencing all of that and wanna do whatever they can to nevertheless sort of foster their own inner peace." He calls the paintings a "visual nudge" for people to gently push them "one more millimetre closer to God and sort of subconsciously just give them a gentle push and show them that there is a deeper meaning and there is beauty and we can sort of do things to sort of call that out. And so that's what I'm hoping: that when people come to the exhibit, I can just nudge them a little bit closer towards not only peace but ultimately to the Prince of Peace."
The exhibit opens on Thursday, September 1, at a special invite-only event at Fleet Galleries at 65 Albert St.
It then opens to the public on September 2 and runs through the entire month of September and is available for viewing during Fleet Galleries' business hours.