An artist’s journey: Finding spiritual formation through creativity

The Wiggins Memorial Library Student Art Gallery has been home to various student exhibits since it was created in October 2021, a permanent new feature of the second-floor renovation made possible by the generous donation of longtime Friend of the Library, the late Ester H. Howard.

One recent exhibit featured the work of Joshua Sledge, a senior graphic design and studio art major and marketing minor. Sledge’s work captured the imagination of library patrons with pieces that showcased his talent in different media. Three of six pieces he chose for his exhibit were mono-chromatic self-portraits; the other three were sculptures. In the self-portraits, Sledge used a white pencil on black paper to create a harsh contrast effect.

He said of the works, called Harsh Lighting 1,2, and 3, “An artist creating an accurate self-portrait can be comparable to a person accepting themselves for who they truly are.”

Sledge’s sculpture pieces all reference his attitudes, feelings and interests. The sculpture Life is Breaking depicts feelings of being set apart financially, religiously or emotionally. In Complete and Total Isolation, he created an island from sand and a fish tank water filter. The rising water in his piece symbolizes loneliness and isolation such as what might be experienced by a stranded survivor isolated from the sea. The last sculpture — Unnerving Static, a Sculpture Based on Little Nightmares — is based on a video game. In it, Sledge created a television set and sculpted two ceramic characters from the game, laid back watching the television. The piece represents two characters set apart from their environment as the only normal beings in an otherwise misshapen world.

During an interview with the artist, Wiggins Memorial Library Circulation Assistant Daria Parker learned how Sledge’s art education at Campbell has impacted his development as an artist, teaching him to recognize imperfections for what they are and allowing him to express himself as a Christian who is set apart.

Sledge said he discovered his artistic talent in middle school, when he began to feel it as a calling, even if he did not label it as such then. It was not until he took Campbell’s Connections 100 class that he identified what he now recognizes as his vocational calling. This spiritual formation class allows students to experience what nurtures the spiritual life from a Christian perspective and helps build a strong sense of community.

With one of Campbell University’s primary goals being to encourage students to lead with purpose through faith and vocation, they are supported in discovering who they are, who God is, and who God is calling them to be. For Sledge, that meant fully embracing his identity as an artist and learning to rejoice in that talent.

Sledge is quick to thank three important mentors who have assisted him during his time here. He credits Associate Professor of Art Breck Smith with teaching him the importance of framing a subject and the importance of patience in creating and viewing art. Adjunct Professor of Studio Art Rachel Hamaie led Sledge to think outside the boundaries of normal life and see the beauty of imperfections. Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Dejan Mraović trained Sledge’s eye to create and perfect the details that make up a whole piece, and to value visual consistency. Mraović also encouraged him to explore art magazine competitions that could lead to his work being published and his artwork becoming known.

More than a dozen artists now have had their work showcased in the Wiggins Memorial Library Student Art Gallery, with several different exhibits installed each academic year. The library invites all students, faculty, staff and visitors to visit to get a glimpse of the creativity so abundant on the Campbell campus.


By Daria Parker Wiggins Memorial Library Circulation Assistant

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