Mosaic, gift of Class of 2004, posted in library
April 19, 2005

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The Tree of Life at Eden "The Tree of Life at Eden," a mosaic by 2004 graduate Ben Norquist, has been hung in the Bryan College Library, a gift of the Class of 2004.

Ben, who is pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Arts at St. John's Graduate Institute in Annapolis, Md., talked about the gift during a recent visit to Dayton. "There are biblical references in the mosaic," he said. "There is a valley, there are mountains and sheep. The main theme would be shepherds and shepherding."

The mosaic depicts Christ crucified on a shepherd's crook, as well as 11 sheep, "and there is some symbolism; for example, the use of numbers," he said.

Artistic inspiration came from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald, and the portrayal of human figures by Hieronymus Bosch. He said the hands reflect Grunewald’s technique and Christ's body is reminiscent of Bosch's work.

Dr. Ruth Kantzer, professor of English, said she particularly likes how the mosaic "points to the unity of the Word in the Old and New Testaments. Through sensitive placement of rough texture, with its quiet symbolic references, I sense the suffering of Christ, which is the source of Christians' pastoral peace."

Ben explained that classmates approached him late in their junior year and suggested he develop a proposal to create the mosaic as the senior class gift. "Shortly after the start of our senior year, the class commissioned me just like you would any professional artist."

In addition to his graduate studies, Ben is planning another mosaic. He traveled to India in March with the Bryan Tsunami Relief team. "I picked up some tile on the beach – there was tile all over the place from buildings that had been destroyed – and brought it back with me to make a tsunami mosaic. We were near Mount St. Thomas, where tradition has it that the apostle Thomas was killed. I may work that in somehow."