2007–2008 Artist: Huibing He
Dr. Huibing He (pronounced “Huh”), 2007-2008 OMSC artist in residence, encountered Christianity when the church was “reopened” in China in 1980. She pursued her artistic education as well as her theological education in China in order to share her faith. Dr. He has embraced the challenge of a dual vocation as both artist and pastor. Her work has been exhibited in Nanjing, China, in Hong Kong, in Austria, and in the United States. Her most recent exhibition was a retrospective of 57 works entitled “Revolution and Rebirth” at the Institute of Sacred Music, Yale University, New Haven.
The story of her life is an amazing testimony to the faithfulness of God. She was born in Guangzhou, China, five years after the Communist takeover, and for much of her childhood her father was away at a concentration labor farm to which he had been sentenced because of his political views and alleged “capitalist” sympathies. She became a Christian in her early twenties, just after churches in China were permitted to reopen. “I had always escaped into art for consolation, but I think I had always sought God without being aware of it,” she says. Moved by the music at the first worship service she wandered into, Huibing asked to sing in the choir and before long was involved in many church activities, including Bible study and baptismal preparation. “The church was so full of warmth, love, and harmony. Something really captured my whole being. So I was compelled to stay.”
Although Huibing and her seven siblings grew up materially poor, her parents were enormously supportive and encouraged the children to be “spiritually free” insofar as they were able. Huibing’s parents instilled in her from an early age the importance of honesty, integrity, and kindness, and on her father’s rare visits, he urged Huibing, “Don’t be destroyed by circumstance.”
Huibing took this lesson to heart. School was extremely difficult for her due to the stifling impositions of the Cultural Revolution; students had been encouraged to rebel against their teachers and inherited tradition, and until high school, Huibing endured daily bullying because of her father’s status. She was even barred from participating in school activities such as the art program. Nevertheless, the school made use of her talent by assigning her to decorate the building’s bulletin boards, an activity she loved.
Huibing attended Nanjing Theological Seminary because she wanted to be able to address the questions her friends often posed about her newfound faith. She was delighted to discover that she did not have to sacrifice her art in order to pursue ministry. She eventually came to Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, where she earned a doctor of ministry degree focusing on the intersection between Gospel, culture, and pastoral care.
She studied oil painting with Master Li Jianheng, drawing and art theory with Master sculptor Tang Daxi, and Chinese painting with Master Zhu Gui in Guangzhou and Nanjing, China, from 1968 to 1978. She was an instructor in Fine Arts at the Guangzhou Commercial School from 1980 to 1982, an instructor in Applied Church Art at Nanjing Theological Seminary from 1985 to 1989, and an instructor in Christian Art History there from 1986 to 1992.
Her work has been exhibited in Nanjing, Hong Kong, Austria, and in many places in the United States. Her most recent exhibition, “Revolution and Rebirth,” was at the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale Divinity School in 2007-2008. Her work has been published in numerous books and journals, and she has authored several articles on art and faith in the Chinese Theological Review, among others. She is a member of three professional artist associations, and continues to work as an artist and an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church.