Paintings and other forms of art lined the walls of the Queens Historical Society in Flushing for its exhibit on Quakers in Queens. But on Sunday afternoon, the art that was shown during a lecture series with an artist had a more direct message.
Sabrina Jones, a graphic designer who has worked on a number of books, came to speak about her newest, “Social Justice According to the Gospels.” In it, she takes not only the narratives – but the messages – of the Gospels and lays them out in drawings of Jesus in modern day.
“This is the best use of my ability,” Jones said. “The best use of my talents and skills is to just put these images in graphic form.”
In Jones’ new book, she shows a number of narratives to make a point. In one of her drawn stories, she shows Jesus telling others not to put faith in just the big, beautiful buildings, because they can come crashing down. In the next image, she shows a firefighter standing in front of a building.
Her drawings are mostly in black and white and done in a nondigital format.
“I still love the intimacy of the handmade page,” she said. She hand-lettered the work, kept it in black and white, and used a brush and ink because it offered a softer result, something she found to be appropriate given the content.
Her version of Jesus resembles that of Rembrandt’s. The book has three parts, one on the contemporary Christian movement, another on radical Christian movements and a section on the Gospels.
“What was missing from the depictions was the teachings,” Jones said.
Jones grew up in Pennsylvania and went to a Quaker high school, although she did not begin to follow the religion until years later in her 30s. Although Quakers and art are not normally paired together, she has merged her passion for social justice with her artistic background.
The Quaker exhibit is continuing through May 2014, with each lecture or event selected by Richard Hourahan, QHS collections manager, to convey the message of practicing “equality, simplicity equalness,” Hourahan said. “The whole idea of reflection that comes from Quakers I thought was good for all people.”
In its early days, Flushing was home to many Quakers, who were welcomed despite objections from Gov. Peter Stuyvesant. The landmarked Quaker Meeting House is still in use on Northern Boulevard.
Jones was happy to be welcomed to an event that highlighted not only art, but also the history of Quakers.
“As a Quaker, I haven’t always had a venue to show my artwork,” she said. “It’s nice to have that come together. It’s great to know that other side of ourselves.”
Her next book will be a biography of Margaret Sanger, a birth control activist who started Planned Parenthood. She will be incorporating her own experiences, however, to show a parallel between Sanger and herself.
Jones’ last book, “Race to Incarcerate,” was a retelling of an earlier book on the war on drugs and the many who went to jail because of it.