Creativity · emotions · Work and Job

The Making of…motive Magazine Art Exhibition Movie

N.B. I sometimes come across projects at work that I can get passionate about. Telling people about motive magazine IS something I am passionate about. It has helped me explore my spirituality. The art, articles, and perspectives shared in its pages  have been a way of experiencing something larger than myself. I don’t know whether it is God working through the magazine, or the brave spiritually fit souls that put this magazine together, but I do know that this project came into my life for a reason: to foster a closer connection with God. 

A selection of artworks by Margaret Rigg, motive art editor from 1955-1965.
A selection of artworks by Margaret Rigg, motive art editor from 1955-1965.

The The final piece of the puzzle (for now)  after 2 months of work on this exhibition is to promote the art exhibition through the development of a video of the exhibition. The video will be distributed online, to the United Methodist Church agencies, near and far, and to interested Universities. The hope is to have motive reach a new audience in dire need of inspiration. 

Below is the script for the voiceover that will play over HD-camera footage of the exhibition. I hope you learn and enjoy all that motive has to offer. I strongly believe there will never be a time when this journal is not relevant.  

The Art of motive showcases some of the artists who were featured in motive magazine, a journal published from 1941-1972 by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. Art in the form of paintings, drawings, poetry, and theater influenced and activated the post-World War II generation to become agents of change, to serve others, and to revolutionize the visions and actions of the church. In an early issue of the progressive magazine, its second editor, Roger Ortmayer, wrote of motive, “its success and or failure of the church depends largely on what its members are.” Through its pages, motive hoped to shape a generation. The magazine was heavily distributed on college campuses — places where the arts, critical thinking, and challenges to authority were welcomed.

The Artists of motive magazine include cartoons by Jim Crane; watercolor and acrylic paintings by Margaret Rigg and Joachim Probst; prints by Robert Hodgell and Otis Huband; and photography by Bob Fitch and Edward Wallowitch. Color reproductions of magazine pages feature thought-provoking articles about science, literature, philosophy, social justice, politics, religion, and art. These too are part of the exhibition.

The magazine was created by the Methodist Student Movement for all students, “of faith and for those who have doubt. Through the art and its articles it showed a motive for constructive living. In the 1940s, the first decade of publication, the art that graced the magazine’s pages included images and reporting on plays conducted at General Conference meetings of the united Methodist church. Most of the images appeared on the cover, some were contributed by students. Poetry was sprinkled between articles about nuclear energy written by Albert Einstein, conscientious objection to service in World War II, and peace.

In the 1950s, Harold Ehrensberger a former Boston University professor and motive editor, increased the use of art in the magazine. There were articles about slightly more contemporary artists like Kathe Kollwitz and her depictions of the effects of world war I on the people of Europe, as well as, more historical pieces on Greek sculpture, and 16th and 17th century Christian art.

Artwork by Kathe Kollwitz
Artwork by Kathe Kollwitz

In 1950, ten years into motive’s publication, the artwork by the then unknown artist, Robert Hodgell, was featured in the magazine. Hodgell’s “Head of Christ” print depicted a youthful image of the Savior. This rendering of Jesus is very unlike what these students would have been exposed to. He does not look like an old man, does not have a beard, nor does he appear fatherly. Instead Christ looks like a brother or a fellow college roommate. The text that appeared below the picture in the May 1950 issue, written by a member of the Student Christian Movement in New Zealand, spoke of taking religion off the pulpit and platforms and into “a lived faith”, embodying “a testimony of integrity of living.”

Hodgell's portrait of christ is featured in the top left corner of this wall.
Hodgell’s portrait of christ is featured in the top left corner of this wall.

After looking at Hodgell’s work, College students around the country may have asked themselves, maybe I could be more Christ like, after all he looks very much like me? How can I best serve the world as Christ did? Maybe I can be the “change that I wish to see in the world,” to paraphrase Mahatma Ghandi.

Hodgell would continue to appear in the magazine throughout the 1960s. A few of his prints are on display in this exhibition, created using cuts of linoleum and wood. Editor, B.J. Stiles donated these works to Boston University.

Motive advertised an art sale in the February 1958 issue. They sold original artworks by Hodgell, Rigg, and others that were featured in the motive. Schools and students purchased these works to adorn and inspire them in their own personal spaces.

Other artists like Joachim Probst offered their own, contemporary interpretation of old artistic motifs composed by European masters like Michaelanglo and Reubens. In these acrylic paintings, Probst, a Greenwich Village, New York self-taught artist, re-envisioned the pieta with his expressionistic brushstrokes. The pieta is defined in Christian art as the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus Christ.

Joachim Probst's works (Top: Pieta Gold, Bottom: Black Crucifix.)
Joachim Probst’s works (Top: Pieta Gold, Bottom: Black Crucifix.)

Probst’s “Black Crucifix” allows the viewer to feel its intensity through the paint, not through the depiction of a story. Through this work, Students and viewers, had the opportunity to exercise their critical thinking skills which they would need out in the world. For instance, after viewing Probst work, one would be better able to reflect and react to the 1954 meeting of the World Council of Churches in Evanston, IL, which grappled with the ecumenical questions posed by Christians from all walks of life.

Margaret Rigg’s work featured expressive depictions of biblical figures, the crucified Christ, and the body of Christ in the form of torsos. Figures like Job, Adam, and Eve were re-envisioned to appear more approachable. Rigg knew how to meet the students where they were at and how art can help them inquire about the world around them. Through both her art and the articles she contributed to the magazine. She told readers how art would affect their lives, in and out of church….her art showed readers how to be in the world. Former editor, Roger Ortmayer said of Rigg’s time at the magazine, “Peg was perfect. She thought theologically. She thought existentially and she understood the motive idea.” The motive idea being to motivate the current generation of students to change the world.

Rigg was so passionate about how art could influence young people’s personal growth that she became a professor after her years as art editor for motive. In the mid- 1960s, she would go on to teach at Florida Presbyterian College, later named Eckerd College. Jim Crane, Robert Hodgell, and she would come together to work at Eckerd College in the visual arts department.

Jim Crane wanted to challenge his reader’s through his chosen form of art, the cartoon. Crane’s cartoons first appeared in motive in the early 1950s. He gravitated to cartoons because, in his words, “My first involvement with the cartoon was not intellectual but gastrointestinal. I draw cartoons because they bring faster relief to the pain in the pit of my stomach than either aspirin or Bufferin.”

He would appear in motive through 1969. Via clever captions, and simple black-and-white line drawings, Jim Crane comments on theology, ecology, politics and more. Crane’s cartoons make us laugh and provide commentary on the world, human relations, and the human condition. Humor disarms the viewer, while Crane’s ulterior, and ultimate, motive is to have us reflect on the world, ourselves, and how we fit within its various contexts. The very goal of what it meant to be a contributor to motive magazine.

His creations from 50 years ago are prophetic as they still resonate with current events of the day.

Crane wrote poetry for the magazine, and created paintings and drawings that were included, too. He was chair of the visual arts department at Eckerd College for 30 years from 1963 to 1993. Four collections of his cartoons were published by John Knox press.

Finally, photography was a significant artistic vehicle in motive magazine. The photography of Edward Wallowitch and Bob Fitch, among others, appeared in the magazine throughout the 1960s. Wallowitch captured the struggles of city life in Philadelphia and New York City during a turbulent decade filled with racial and political upheaval. His photos focus on African American children, student protests, and the activities of everyday life which stood in stark contrast to the insurmountable injustices of racial inequality, an unjust war in Vietnam, and political corruption.

There are many other artists that graced the pages of motive over its 30 year history. This exhibition is by no means comprehensive. The artworks you see in this exhibition were donated by Margaret Rigg and B.J. Stiles, former editor of motive from October 1961-May 1969.

I invite you to take a look at a copy of motive magazine for yourself. Boston University School of Theology and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry brought the magazine to life in digital form on the web. Please visit for more information.

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