Making a Masterpiece: The Saint John's Bible Through an Artist's Lens

March 05, 2019 7:00 PM
Dominican Center, Room 218

Masterpiece Affron Lecture

Samuel D. Affron Memorial Lecture

Join Diane von Arx for an exploration of the role of the artist in the creation of the magnificent Saint John’s Bible. The complete seven volumes of the Bible will be displayed.

About von Arx

If you’ve ever spent time in a supermarket, you’re likely familiar with the work of Diane von Arx. For nearly ten years, she worked as a production and lettering artist at Hauck & Associates, a package design studio in Minneapolis, where she created the original lettering for General Mills products such as Trix, Count Chocula, and Nature Valley Granola.


However, it is her work on the majestic Saint John’s Bible, the first hand-lettered and hand-illuminated Bible created in more than 500 years, that has become the defining moment of her long and illustrious career. As a member of the Artistic Team for the Saint John’s Bible, von Arx created four “special treatment” illuminations for Wisdom Books, volume four of the seven volume set.


Join von Arx for an exploration of the role of the artist in the creation of this one-of-a-kind tome, and learn how an international group of artists, scribes, and theologians interacted and communicated to achieve such a massive and complex undertaking. The master artist will also walk the audience through her own creative process of producing special treatment illuminations for Wisdom Books, volume 4 of the Saint John’s Bible.


Using medieval inks, materials, and methods, the team worked for 15 years to create the Saint John’s Bible. Commissioned by the Benedictine monks of St. John’s Abbey, it was made using quill pens and special inks comprised of condensed candle smoke and egg yolk. The Bible contains 160 major hand-gilded illuminations that encompass many artistic styles, often mixing modern motifs with traditional religious imagery. Mount Saint Mary College owns the full seven-volume Heritage Edition set of the Saint John’s Bible, a fine art reproduction that captures the original down to the smallest details.


Von Arx also designed the titling for The Word Made Flesh, the 2005 CINE Golden Eagle Award winning film which was produced at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. to promote the Saint John’s Bible project.


“Diane is a gifted calligrapher and graphic artist,” said Barbara Petruzzelli, director of the Kaplan Family Library. “She was selected to work on a massive artistic and spiritual undertaking, the likes of which has not been seen in more than 500 years. The Saint John’s Bible is an incredible work of art, truly one of a kind.”


Von Arx is passionate about the craft of making letters in new and innovative ways, using contemporary materials and techniques while respecting traditional letter forms. Interacting and engaging with viewers of the calligraphic process has convinced her that calligraphy is indeed a “performance art.”


To this end, she will perform live calligraphy in the Aquinas Hall Atrium at the college on Wednesday, March 6 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and again from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Stop by her desk and request a name of your choice, which von Arx will hand-letter while you wait. Take away a beautifully-written keepsake, suitable for framing, at no charge. Watch the words come to life as her work is projected on the wall above her.


With nearly five decades of experience in the creative field as a graphic designer, von Arx has taught calligraphy and design workshops throughout the U.S. and internationally. Currently the owner of DESIGNS, a lettering art studio, her clients include Target, 3M, University of Minnesota, St. John’s University, Ameriprise Financial, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and many others.


Von Arx holds an associate of arts degree from the Jefferson School of Commercial Art in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Her work has been featured in numerous publications and exhibited in the United States, Europe, and Japan. In addition, she has authored three calligraphy workbooks for beginners.


This lecture is made possible by Mount Saint Mary College’s Samuel D. Affron Memorial Lecture Series and the Affron family.


Jerome S. Affron, a former Mount trustee, established the Samuel D. Affron Memorial Lecture Series in honor of his father in 1982. A native of Kingston, Samuel D. Affron served on the Board of Education in Beacon for many years.