Work of Art Became Prayer Wall Following Paris Attacks

CHICAGO, IL (November 30, 2015) – Artist Kari Lindholm-Johnson was in Paris just weeks before terrorists slaughtered 130 people in that city. She could not have known how the sculpture she felt so unusually compelled to create would become the centerpiece of a prayer wall following the attacks.

She had traveled to Paris with a group of North Park Seminary students who were there as part of their class “Rethinking Mission: Lessons from Christian Art, History, and Practice.” Lindholm-Johnson, the artist-in-residence at Swedish Covenant Hospital, had been invited as a guest lecturer.

On a day when the group was scheduled to tour several sites, Lindholm-Johnson begged off, saying she felt strongly that she needed to create a sculpture from a map of Paris. “I was a little embarrassed because I was wondering why I was so compelled to do this,” she said.

1130 kari looking at prayer wall Having such a strong sense about a project has happened only rarely for the Covenant minister. “I get things in my head sometimes that I need to get out. It happens infrequently, but when I’m finished I’m always kind of amazed at how it connects with other things. This was one of the stronger urgings that I needed to get this done.”

She cut up the map to create a cross. As she worked with the horizontal section of the cross, she saw that it also resembled the wings of a dove. Its wings are shaped by a series of crescents.

“I felt that the crescent needed to be there,” Lindholm-Johnson said. “I was really troubled by all the vilification that was going on, and I thought how do you pray for peace while vilifying at the same time? I think it is significant that Christ’s peace is for all.”

She had to take her time because she was doing intricate work based on the Fibonacci sequence, a mathematical infinite series of numbers in which each integer is equal to the sum of the previous two. It leads to a pattern that goes by many names, including the golden ratio and the golden spiral, which occurs throughout nature, art, and architecture. It is said to create images that appear harmonious.

1130 closeup of map“I wanted to do it because Paris is laid out in a spiral,” Lindholm-Johnson said.

When Lindholm-Johnson returned to the United States, she felt as compelled to finish the project in Chicago as she did when she began it in Europe. “I felt like I needed to get it done, and I felt like I needed to get the artwork up.”

Paul de Neui, professor of intercultural studies and missiology, led the trip and was surprised that Lindholm-Johnson was so determined to have the sculpture hung in the room where the class meets. He told her there was no hurry since students weren’t returning to the class right away. But she was adamant.

Along with the rest of the world, Lindholm-Johnson was stunned by the attacks. It was then that she understood why she felt so driven to complete the sculpture.

“I knew it was God guiding me,” she said.

“With recent events, it has become very meaningful as a place of prayer for peace in the building,” de Neui said. People have been placing post-it stickers with prayers on the wall.