Tuesday, September 05, 2006

feeding the soul

It's been over a year now since my son began serving time. I suppose like a death in the family, holidays are particularly marked by that individual's absence. Well, now we are working on another year of absences-my daughter's birthday, my birthday coming up, art shows, school starting...so many things that we're beginning to accept without him. I was reading a CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) newsletter online, looking for opportunities to show my work in an ecclesiastical setting, and most exhibits have a very specific theme, so it is a temptation to sort of stretch the meanings of some pieces of work just to get them considered for the show. There is one exhibit and one piece I have, though, that is no stretch. When this all started I could not accept the my son's absence, and the more reality dawned on us all, the more it was hard to mark time in those terms. A stretch of months came on me where I could not think of anything at all, and worse yet, I couldn't really sense or feel much. For an artist that is a terrible thing. It's like a runner losing a leg. I have the skills to do strictly technical work, but without the drive and emotional connection to a subject, it is really hard to create. Almost impossible.

The exhibit I ran across is called "Gathering at the Table-Feeding the Soul". I realized at the beginning of 2006, whether I felt like it or not, I had to get work done and shows lined up. I had to do SOMETHING, because nothing would change if I did not try. I didn't want to. I had to not care how things came out at first, or even what came out. The important thing was, work again. My stamina was small. I tired out doing pieces that required much concentration. One day I realized that I needed to focus on forgiveness. I was holding myself hostage to events that I really had nothing to do with. My soul was dammed up because I would not release my son or myself to what had happened and know we were both forgiven. I thought back to my own decision to surrender to God in my life. I needed to do it again, for both of us. I needed to do more than just decide this in my mind-I had to put it on a piece of paper. I stretched a large piece of paper, and really without any specific thought in mind other than I wanted something that represented my helplessness in the whole situation and God's provision for my soul, I took red paint and hurled it at the wet paper with a brush as hard as I could. It splattered and ran down the paper, pooling at the bottom. I put my fingers in black paint and pressed them into the pool of red so that fingerprints appeared I let it all dry and drew my black work shoes over the red. I drew a curtain above, torn from the top and put yellow paint in the open space. The idea that formed in my mind was the temple veil being torn at Christ's death. The veil separated people from their High Priest in New Testament Jewish culture.

As I look back I see a greater application to myself at the time, and another section of scripture that was very offensive to Jesus' followers. He told them that unless they ate His flesh and drank His blood, they had no share in Him. At the time I did that piece, my soul was absolutely starved to death for everything the Lord is. I needed to consume all that I could of His love, forgiveness, understanding... and I needed Him to enter into my suffering, as I needed to enter into His. There was no holding back, or else I would never move forward. In creating that piece of art, I entered in and He met me so graciously. I don't know if my piece will be accepted into this show or not, or even understood in it's context, but the thing is, it's value to me was in the creation, the creation of something on paper and the re-creation of my senses through Christ. Doing that work was a turning point for me, a start to being nourished by life again.


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