Ken Gingerich, artist
Into the wilderness
An exploration of emptiness as place
Ken Gingerich grew up in Northern Indiana and attended college in Kansas—beginning at Hesston College and completing a BA in art at Bethel College in North Newton. He then worked as a graphic designer at the Pennsylvania headquarters of Mennonite Central Committee. Gingerich and his wife Leona Goering also served as volunteers with MCC in Northeastern Brazil. Career choices led back to publishing and print design in Indiana, and eventually to a staff position at Hesston College.
In the early 1990’s Gingerich and his family moved to New Mexico where Ken and Leona provided leadership at the recently-formed Albuquerque Mennonite Church. During this time Gingerich also spent a year in the University of New Mexico’s (NAG) graduate program for non-architectural majors. He later worked as an exhibit and graphic designer at the Rio Grande Zoo. In1995 Gingerich returned to Indiana to work as a graphic designer for Mennonite Church USA, but in 2004 he persuaded his employers to let him return to his beloved New Mexico where he continues to work as creative director for the denomination.
About five years ago Gingerich resumed painting and has exhibited in several solo shows at the SpringSong Gallery in Albuquerque, at the Cobalt Gallery in Newton, Kansas and most recently at the Friesen-Regier Gallery on the campus of Hesston College, in Hesston, Kansas. He currently maintains a studio at the Harwood Art Center in downtown Albuquerque.
“Into the wilderness” refers to the loss of wildness we have experienced in Western culture, a wildness that keeps us at arms length from understanding the creative and sustaining forces that form the universe.” says Gingerich. “we have lost our understanding of the inter-connectedness between the material and spiritual world I think it is something Western Christianity lost in the transition from a more unified Hebrew world view to the dominant Greek dualism that separated spiritual and material realms. I find the creative process is where these realms can come together. And I’m beginning to understand the power of symbolism to help us make the connections.
Most cultures, ancient and modern, have symbols that represent the presence of mediating places or sacred centers. In Celtic spirituality “thin places” allow people to sense God’s nearness, in Christianity it’s the cross (where Christ reaches across the cosmos), in Judaism it’s Mt. Sinai (where the law was given) and in many native American cultures the four sacred directions emanate from an axis that connects the physical world with the spiritual. My reference points are the mountains, deserts and immense landscapes I can see from most vantage points around Albuquerque. I find the huge empty spaces of our landscape to be very full.” says Gingerich. “I love the wildness of it all.”
The paintings are done in acrylic on masonite—sturdy and forgiving. The process usually begins with a laying down of color inspired by a memory, a particular view or sometimes a dream. The images emerge as more layers of color go down in simple geometric patterns and sometimes architectural shapes—kind of like an Amish quilt. “I’m always intrigued and fascinated by the unexpected results of combinations of color and texture and try to let these unexpected images guide the process.” says Gingerich.
Ken and Leona live in a comfortable adobe overlooking Albuquerque and the Rio Grande Valley. They are active members of Albuquerque Mennonite Church, and are parents of two adult sons who also live in the city.