Two USC alumni redesign the Bible
An artistic and spiritual venture developed by two USC alumni, Alabaster Company is a bible company created to giv the Bible a new design. It was named “Project We Love” by Kickstarter. Since its launch on Sept. 7, the Kickstarter campaign has already raised more than $31,000 of its $35,000 goal and gained widespread recognition.
Alabaster’s creators, Brian and Bryan Chung, hope to create a visual experience that will foster deeper understanding of the world and God by integrating original digital artwork into the gospels of the Bible. Alabaster, described as “The Bible Beautiful,” is designed to provide readers — both Christian and non-Christian — with a unique experience of engaging with the Bible to ultimately reveal the beauty of God through visual aesthetics. Brian graduated from USC in 2010 as a business administration major with a minor in communication design, and Bryan graduated in 2015 as an animation and digital arts major. The former is currently on staff with InterVarsity Trojan Christian Fellowship, one of USC’s largest Christian fellowships, the latter with the InterVarsity chapter at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. The Daily Trojan sat down with the duo to discuss their endeavor and thoughts on the relationship between visual design and culture.
Daily Trojan: What sparked the idea for Alabaster?
Bryan: During my time in college, I was focusing a lot on technical art, which had nothing to do with the story or the philosophy about art. The requirements were just to make the thing look right. In the back of my head, I always wanted to ask some sort of larger question about beauty and art, and I specifically wanted to ask these in the contexts of God and Christianity. That’s how Alabaster first came about for me.
Brian: Bryan and I were having a late night conversation about art and faith together. It felt like we were in line with the overarching vision, which was to have a conversation about art and beauty. As we talked about it with our friends, there was a sense of, “Oh, people would like something like this!”
DT: What is the meaning behind the name “Alabaster?”
Bryan: There is a passage in Mark 14 about a woman with an alabaster jar. This is one of the only times in the gospel that Jesus calls something “beautiful.” Jesus is about to die, and she comes and puts very expensive perfume from the alabaster jar by breaking the jar over his head, and she sort of anoints him before his burial. In that culture, you wouldn’t have done that because the alabaster jar was worth a year’s wages. But, Jesus says that she has done a beautiful thing. She was very sacrificial, generous and gratuitous. We wanted to adopt the spirit of the woman as we were creating and designing Alabaster.
DT: Why do you think this new take on the Bible take will be impactful in comparison to traditional formats of the Bible, specifically for non-Christians?
Brian: We think that our culture today is asking the question of “what is beautiful.” From Instagram to websites to the aesthetics of a restaurant, there is something about beauty that attracts us. Obviously, we hope that Christians will feel that this is a new way for them to experience God. We also hope that Alabaster will be good for people who are spiritually curious. The Bible might seem super intimidating because it’s just a bunch of words that are close together and badly printed, and so they might not normally open that up because it just feels ugly or irrelevant. We hope that this is a safer place for people to check out spirituality, in a beautiful way.
Bryan: The thinking behind that is beauty is very human and very honest. Regardless of if you believe in Christianity or not, there is still something very human about making art and seeing that through Jesus’s story.
DT: How has attending and working at USC shaped your current views on the relationship of God and visual beauty?
Brian: What I love about USC is that there is a high value for integrating various fields. Being at USC has helped us think about our faith-life and our career together rather than separate. USC encourages its students to explore two things in relation to one another. In this light, Alabaster combines the text of the Bible with visual beauty.
DT: What do you envision for the future of Alabaster, or do you have any other projects in store?
Bryan: We obviously want to do more books of the Bible. I think the underlying vision of Alabaster is to create a dialogue between beauty and God. Our hope for Alabaster as a whole doesn’t have to be limited to making Bibles. If we want to create a conversation between beauty and faith, there are other ways to do that. I think it’d be cool to explore different aesthetics and what they say about who God is.