Revelation is the apocalyptic book within the Bible’s New Testament, where phrases like “drunken with the blood of the saints” and “a sea of glass glowing with fire” deliver unsettling imagery with only smatterings of interpretation. Mixed-media artist Cynthia Stanchak doesn’t attempt to interpret Revelation line by line. Instead, she’s collaborated with longtime evangelist Marilyn Hickey to illuminate, simplify, and structure the book with illustrations.
She guides readers through a path of seven rooms meant to structure the literature into something traversable. Her mixed-media imagery is not as concrete as visual conjectures can be, but that’s not the point. They’re an alternative, dressed-down, and approachable version of a robust narrative.
In the wake of 9/11 and the wave of artists responding to it, Stanchak peered into the apocalyptic-themed literature that began to flood Western culture. “I remember distinctly when 9/11 happened. I felt like a turtle without a shell—exposed, like nowhere to go was totally safe. After that, the disasters in the world just seemed to increase, as did a sense of hopelessness. If God is a tower of refuge, he protects us. But I didn’t have that feeling, so that’s what led me to my study of the end times.”
All her illustrations combine found objects, new materials, and an archive of old photographs. She layers the photos with paint, sometimes adding new textural layers as time passes. She describes how she matches images to verses and spiritual one-liners, “I was reading Revelation and Dr. Hickey was coming and going in and out of my studio. The captions came from her comments. We sat on the studio floor, and one image at a time… it was Spirit-led inspiration that brought us to match those phrases with my works.”
Her Revelation Project is one of few places where the text exists without verse numbers or chapter breaks, reimagining the whole chronicle as a completely new beast; thematic as opposed to more measured, quantitative breaks. To read it on a glossy page next to entrancing imagery makes it feel like you’re reading the Odyssey instead of an apocalyptic word puzzle.
“I hope to unlock the mystery of Revelation for people, to simplify it,” Stanchak tells The Creators Project. “If we edit down, take everything back to the basics, and just look at Jesus. I’m hoping this can be a bridge for all kinds of believers. Maybe they’ll take another look at something previously cryptic and strange — but hopeful.”