Part 12 – Now I See
Above: We Are One (The Holy Trinity after Rublev), 2018 by Michelle L Hofer
A Real Eye Opener
I am an avid podcast listener, especially when I’m busy with some art-making as I was this past week. I typically osculate between podcasts and music. I seem to process podcasts better in the morning hours when I’m fresh and switch up to music in the afternoon and evening. Anyway, if you happened to read the intro page for this blog series, you saw that I chose Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s piece, The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind as the cover art for the series. This summer I was listening to an NPR Invisibilia podcast on blindness, How to Become Batman. It’s a fascinating listen into how our culture contributes to keeping blind people “blind”, or unable to best develop their other senses in order to navigate their surroundings unassisted. The episode is a literal “eye-opener,” something I hope this blog series has been and these art pieces will be.
They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch. – the words of Jesus Christ, Matthew 15:14
The Final Word
This past week has been one of furious creation (partly because I procrastinate too). While I’ve been writing these past few months for this series, I’ve been letting ideas for artwork to sprout. I wanted to be able to reach this end place and make something that rises out of what I have learned, what I have questioned, what I have written. These are the pieces that have been born out of this venture.
I decided to go with the “tried and true” classic visual models that much of Christianity identifies with and which I gave special feature to in this blog series. Next, because I wanted to make use of the Luther Bible I had found at the recycling center, I next chose Scriptures to coordinate with each image:
- Rublev’s Holy Trinity – John 17 – Jesus prays for all believers to be one as God is one.
- The Vladimir Mother of God – John 1 – the Word is made flesh
- Christ Pantocrator – Colossians 1-2 – the preeminence of Christ, the mystery of God
My first step was to scan the pages of text from the Luther Bible, these I printed and mod-podged onto hardboard. Once these had cured, I was ready to paint abstract backgrounds. I’ve always been fond of metallic paints and used these generously as I often do. There was a lot of messing around at this point, trying to find what direction I wanted these pieces to go. Everything went much darker, much more textured and chaotic than I was envisioning. This is the nature of art, my friends. Trying to exert too much control always results in a work that lacks life. One must allow room for the collaboration of the Spirit and exploration of the depths of one’s own soul.
I was next able to trace my prototypes (that’s the term used for the image you are working from when creating Christian icon art) onto the backgrounds and then fine tune some of the background coloration with washes for specific areas. I painted the gold halos (nimbuses) on all three pieces and wings for the Trinity piece. At this point, I also made the decision to place each image off-center – largely because there’s been this imbalance in the Protestant faith in regards to visual art. I also chose to incorporate a stencil pattern which reminded me of how minimalist decorative elements became popular once pictorial images were cast out of Protestant worship spaces.
Anytime you decide to venture out with your art as I’m doing with these pieces, there are a lot of decisions to make. At each step in the process, choices and commitments will need to be made. This can be overwhelming and I find it best to walk away from the work when I am feeling stuck. I did so on several occasions this past week while engaged in this work. Sometimes it meant stopping early for the day. It’s amazing how doing this can really help. I had one bad night of work and things just weren’t moving ahead like I was hoping, so I took my paint apron off and called it quits. When I returned in the morning, I spent a little time looking over where I had left things the night before. I knew in just a few minutes what course corrections needed to be made. It meant scrapping some of the previous evening’s work, but it was the right choice.
Having covered most of the text background with paint, I resolved to incorporate text in other ways. I chose to print more of the text on some aged loose-leaf paper I found recently at my parent’s place. From this I cut physical features for the figures and other elements. I determined to go easy on the details opting to simply outline in gold on the painted background and in brown ink on the physical features – I liked how this gave the pieces a “written” quality.
Perhaps the most critical decision is to know when to stop! For me that comes when I get the feeling that the piece is finished…even if it means leaving a mistake (something I do more and more not out of laziness, but out of overcoming my perfectionist tendencies). There are areas on all three of these pieces that I am not 100% satisfied with, but I choose to leave them be.
Sancta Sophia: Holy-Wisdom. It is what the world needs most and has lost. – Thomas Whittemore
Up until now, I’ve been at a loss as to where I can use the above quote. I came across it in my research and it has to do with the name of the what I consider to be the world’s greatest worship spaces, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey – we’ve visited this space in both Part 5 and Part 11. This same structure goes by many names including, Sancta Sophia, but they all have the same meaning: Holy Wisdom. I think that is what I’ve wanted to grasp through this blog series and art pieces. It feels fitting to share Whittemore’s words as we depart. It’s a call to all of us to continue to ask, seek and knock. It’s a call to see (perceive) rather than just look.
It’s a call for the church to be whole, and to be free of the blindness that has crippled us these 500 years…
And it’s grace that will lead us home.
Hey, thanks again for joining me on this journey. God bless all your paths.
Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come.
T’was grace that brought us safe thus far
And grace will lead us home,
And grace will lead us home
Amazing grace, Howe Sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
T’was blind but now I see
Down an Ancient Path
The BIRCH TREE STUDIO BLOG