Fourth in an ongoing series on Atenas-basedartists.SET up in an unpretentious, U-shaped shopping mall in the coffee town of Atenas, northwest of San José, El Puente (The Bridge) working gallery looks like many other stores and offices: corrugated iron roof, glass front, an inviting open door. Step inside, and the similarities stop when you enter the microcosm of visionary painter David Chapman.The rectangular room with its white and orange walls is half studio and half gallery, giving maximum attention to Chapman’s extraordinary paintings.Artwork by Columbian artist Alejandro Ortiz, who shares the studio with Chapman, is also on display. Two easels bear their acrylics in progress. Bookcases hold neatly piled-up paint containers, art books and family photographs. On a large trestle table, the artists store brushes of all shapes and sizes and sometimes sketch ideas for future projects.Florida native Chapman, 46, came to Atenas in April of this year, and made an impression on the community when he opened his gallery in June with the intention of giving local artists the opportunity to learn, create and exhibit.“There is a vortex here that, with the right commitment and guidance, can change enormously,” Chapman says.“If a group of talented people come together,” he continues, explaining the concept of the gallery, “what is important is the radiant energy with which they can nurture each other. It is not overt – it just happens. To me, El Puente is a place where people can come and be part of this.”COMING from a creative Irish family, Chapman was always aware of his talent. After serving in the U.S. Navy for 20 years, he felt the calling for a change. He was injured many times and wondered why he had spent so much of his lifetime in the military.“When I got out of the service,” he recalls, “I felt completely abandoned and alone. All my survival skills were based on combat. I wanted to be somebody else.”During the lengthy and painful transition process, a spiritual experience and meeting his wife Christine initiated and fostered his personal growth and development. He enrolled at the University of North Carolina to study the fine arts with a teaching credential, and received his bachelor’s degree in 1998.CHAPMAN teaches drawing, painting, sculpting, pottery and photography. He wants his students to find their own talents.“But it’s not manna from heaven,” he says. “The artist has to be willing to grow.” Inspired by life experiences, Chapman uses the canvas as a medium to convey his strong personal opinions. Painting gives him the opportunity to say what he wants to, enabling onlookers to extract their own interpretation of it. Believing in a collective consciousness, he says he feels a necessity to see all living beings connected, while leaving himself open to the influences of the universe.“In my paintings, I start out with an idea, an inspiration,” he says. “During the painting process, it’s then out of my control, and I become part of it. When it’s finished, I have already received everything I needed from it. Every piece pushes me to a new level.”MOST of Chapman’s works begin with a hidden message, which he puts underneath the first layer of paint. He prefers symbols from Buddhism, Christianity or Druidism because, he says, they represent man’s attempt to understand and worship God.In one of his latest works, “Behold the Jewel, Hidden within the Lotus,” Chapman depicts his interpretation of a Sanskrit prayer, reflecting the idea of seeing the creator in everything alive.“Visionary art is contemporary sacred art that strives to foster the transformative integration of body and soul,” Chapman says. “It’s an attempt to understand that there is a greater power who is guiding us.On this journey, we discover who we are and where our place is in the universe. Visionary artists express their experiences along this pilgrimage to understand our humanity.”El Puente working gallery is in Centro Plaza shopping mall in Atenas, 250 meters south of the yellow light off the main road to Orotina. For information, call 446-8092 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.