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Photo by Nicole Schlaeppi for The Spectator
“I want the audience to experience the beauty of new life.” — Jesuit Father Trung Pham
Jesuit Uses Abstract Art as a Medium to Explore Spiritual Life

March 3, 2014 — Jesuit Father Trung Pham, an artist and assistant professor in the Department of Fine Arts at Seattle University, is hoping to show others that contemporary and abstract art can be deeply spiritual. “I want the audience to experience the beauty of new life,” he said.

Fr. Pham’s works are now on display in his first solo exhibition at Seattle University in a show titled “Crack,” a collection of abstract oil paintings resembling thick, colorful scars across each canvas.

Born in Vietnam, Fr. Pham emigrated to the U.S. at age 15. He earned his M.F.A. in drawing and painting with a secondary focus in sculpture at the Pratt Institute in New York. This is his second year teaching drawing, 3-D design and sculpture at Seattle University.

Although initially a chemical engineering student, Fr. Pham quickly realized that he needed to focus on art and spirituality in order to make sense of the suffering that his family endured and that he witnessed around him. He was raised in a Catholic family, and his father is also an artist who worked in traditional painting and sculpture before a stroke forced his retirement.

Fr. Pham, who was ordained as a priest in 2012, was drawn to the Jesuit approach in his spiritual life because he felt it gave him a lens to examine his experiences and find a sense of healing. He values being at Seattle University because he can continue to explore what moves him and find transformation in making art, teaching and serving as a priest.

Fr. Pham is excited for the opportunity to show his work on campus and hopes to inspire his students through his artwork. “It’s important for our art students to see that our arts faculty are not just teachers in the classroom, but they’re also productive artists,” said Jesuit Father Tom Lucas, curator of the Kinsey Gallery, where Fr. Pham’s show is taking place.

Each “crack” in Fr. Pham’s paintings is thick with textured paint in an array of colors, making the canvases appear to be cracking open. He explains that he was interested in expressing the moment of creation and transformation. “We all go through life with certain psychological, emotional and spiritual damage,” he said. “But from there, we grow. That’s the crack.”

For Fr. Pham, the crack symbolizes an opening, as well as an opportunity for new life. “Crack is an amazing metaphor for me to see beauty in the vulnerable, in the brokenness, in the ordinary daily life,” he said.

To see more of Fr. Pham’s work, visit his website at, or see the exhibit “Crack,” on display through April 14 in the Kinsey Gallery at Seattle University. [Source: Seattle University Spectator]

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