The Messengers Who Announce Peace Textile
(after Edward Hicks) — 2014
by Michelle L Hofer
Mixed media fabric construction
Upon receiving the commission for this project by the Freeman Network for Justice and Peace, I began considering the various imagery suggestions given to me and wondered how I could bring them together. I woke one morning with a clear vision of a grand satin-velvety lion, and I recognized it as direction given by the Spirit (although it was not at all related to any of the suggested ideas I had received). I pulled out my American Art textbook and found myself contemplating early American folk artist, Edward Hicks’ Peaceable Kingdom painting, which featured such a creature.
It seems I’ve been bumping into Hicks and his work for a number of years now, and I took my early morning vision as a sign to explore what I would call Hicks’ lifelong prayer for the restoration of God’s Kingdom – a world at peace. Hicks is said to have painted closed to 100 different versions of this same scene (you’ll find them in museums across the country). They fascinate me – wide-eyed wild beasts cohabitating with domestic creatures and children, romanticized landscape vistas, people of different races peaceably interacting. Through discussion and planning with the group, a new expression emerged.
Included on this (the left) banner is the Natural Bridge of Virginia which Hicks incorporated into several of his Peaceable Kingdom paintings after seeing the bridge illustration on a map by Henry S. Tanner in 1822. In the banner, it brings to mind Christ’s empty tomb from which streams a mass of redeemed people – those experiencing new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A young woman is found in some of Hicks’ paintings where she represents peace, innocence and liberty. Here, the dove this young woman receives bears the olive branch symbol of our denomination, Mennonite Church USA. The banner ribbon features the words of Isaiah 52:7 which is also illustrated by the feet at the top of the banner. The ribbon continues to flow back to the crowd representative of the peacemakers – children of God as were blessed by Jesus (Matthew 5:9).
Both banners also bear the text, Psalm 34:11-14, a Scriptural encouragement to be persons who search out peace. May it be so with you in your journey upon this earth.