Spiritual Painter Literally Strikes Gold

A mysterious benefactor bequeathed Bomer a suitcase of treasures, including a book of Albrecht Dürer etchings and sheafs of gold leaf, that became real-life modes of inspiration in her work. Photo by Rimas Zailskas.

“It is much easier to paint what you think you see,” says Grace Carol Bomer. “But how do you paint invisible spiritual truths?” This daunting philosophical question is surprisingly practical: after all, it feeds her successful painting career. “My work attempts to make visible the invisible,” she adds.

“We all are born and will die,” says Grace, whose name echoes her search for meaning. Matters of salvation, she believes, “are of interest to every human.”

Her modern expressionism bursts gradually into being: it’s revelation by degrees. She says she allows the layers of oil paint and cold wax, sometimes applied over gold and silver leaf, “to create surprises and shapes which become part of the whole that evolves.” She paints quickly, dark against light, thinking more about the overall design than about a detailed depiction of a subject.

The Return of the Prodigal

“I was using gold leaf sparingly before,” she notes. (The paintings “Parachute Dummies” and “In the House of My Pilgrimage” show a bit of it.) Then she got to use what she calls “the gift of gold” in a life-sized commission called “The Fisherman/The Calling of the Twelve.” Now it glows frequently in her work, signaling her message as a self-described “artist of faith.”

She often incorporates found images and pieces of text appropriate to the theme (for example, in “The Defendant’s Words,” she included a Wall Street Journal article about the 9/11 trial; in “The Prodigal,” the central face lies half in obscurity). Grace adds paint and wax to embed the image fully into the canvas.

For all the work, she’s most rewarded when people see things in her paintings she hadn’t included. It’s called “pareidolia” — unwittingly conjuring images of animals, people, and objects that aren’t necessarily there.

It happens to her, too. Figures emerge from the patterns of wax and paint. If they happen to reinforce her theme, she’ll work to “pull them out” for others to see.

Soli Deo Gloria, 170 Lyman St., Asheville. For details, call 828-545-2451 or visit carolbomer.com. Bomer will hold an open house at her studio from 11am-5pm Saturday on December 2.

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