HBU Alumna Sarah Beth Baca, ’01, has been a student of the Bible since childhood, and an artist with a knack for combining the real with the whimsical. In recent years, she’s gleaned artistic inspiration from fresh readings of Scripture. “I wanted to do something a little different artistically,” she said. “Many of us who have grown up in church have seen more traditional illustrations. I wanted to create something that made people think differently about these people from history.”
Specifically, Baca is passionate about exploring the stories of women in the Bible, both well-known and obscure. “I didn’t want to just paint another picture, but to break open some of the stereotypes and give a different perspective on the story,” she said. “You see things as an adult you didn’t see before, like how incredible it was that Deborah went into battle, or how the battle was turned by Jael. I thought, ‘What would a woman like this look like? She’s got to be tough and fierce. How can I portray these ancient stories and give them a new, vibrant perspective?’ And even having read through the Bible many times, reading through the Bible with new eyes, I saw stories of women I never remembered reading. For example, there is a woman named Sheerah who built three cities. It just opened up my mind.”
During the past two years, Baca has portrayed 25 women from the Bible, and she is still going. Her process includes studying Scripture, as well as researching culture and pertinent information pertaining to the time period. “I start out with a drawing of the face and background with watercolor, and then draw details with ink,” she said. “It’s what’s coming out of my imagination of what they might look like.”
Baca draws each image as half of the face, representing women’s role as half of God’s created image and alluding to their mystery. The women’s hair and halos are filled with significant icons and text related to the biblical story. While the drawings are not intended to be literal – Priscilla has violet hair for instance – they’re meant to capture the essence of the women. “I like the freedom of expression,” Baca said. “For some, I just get a feeling, and a sense of what the woman contributed to that time and place, like love, care and protection.”
Because the Bible contains limited information about its characters, Baca has visually told the stories of some of the women with the help of custom. For example, Lady Wisdom of Proverbs is known as Sophia, and the woman at the well is known as Saint Photina in Orthodox and Catholic church traditions.
Baca’s depictions of biblical heroines have been admired by people around the world, and her work has been published by Fuller Seminary and Mutuality Magazine. “I think this series has just been God-ordained,” she said. “He gave me this vision for creating it.”
Baca credits her parents, Jerry and Sheila Wiles, for supporting her artistic pursuits from the start. “My mom played a huge role in developing my creative side; we would spend hours on creative projects together,” Baca said. Later, at HBU, Baca grew in her abilities while an art student. In fact, paintings she completed as part of worship during HBU convocations are still treasured and on display at the University. She also relies on the support of her husband, Brandon ’00, with whom she has three children.
Baca’s current projects include community mural projects throughout the area and a summer 2018 gallery exhibit at BR Vino in Rosenberg.
To find Sarah Beth’s art, visit: