" Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil," replied the widow when the prophet Elisha asked her what she had in her house. Immediately Elisha told her to borrow jars from her neighbors, "and not too few," then continued his brief, clear instructions that led to a big, big miracle. I've known this narrative since childhood. It's in 2 Kings chapter 4, the first seven verses. God provides for a woman so in debt her sons are about to be taken as slaves by the creditor. God provides even more than she needs to save her sons.
Labor Day weekend 2020, the miracle took on new meaning. I heard a message unpacking it in detail and drawing insights for today. The account is lean so every detail is significant. During the message the details became clear and sharp in my mind, replacing vague images probably based on illustrations in a Sunday School book. Now could see the olive oil sparkle as the woman poured from her jar into the many borrowed vessels. I could smell it, taste it. I imagined the stone ground oil to be a rich green-gold, deeper than the poshest of today's EVOO. I wondered what shade of blue her dress was, the age of her boys, the sizes and colors of the jars. I knew art in some form would result.
Almost a year later, I started an ambitious 36 x 36" mosaic attempting to capture the luscious, luminous pour of the oil. The colors were exciting- pale gold, olive green, bronze, purple. But the composition...was awful. Olive oil left out in the sun to spoil awful. I dismantled the piece, saving some of the "palette trash" material. I was disappointed, even frustrated, but undaunted. The time simply wasn't right; I would wait for focus. Within couple weeks I tried again, a small piece, 4 x 4 inches. It turned out well but was a bit more of an intellectual exercise than a full-bodied expression.
For several months after the fail and the not-quite win, I posted the passage where I would see it a lot. I read it, marked up the phrases that leapt off the page, asked God to keep my mind open. Eventually, I thought, I'd be able to see what I needed to create. Nope. I reflected on it less and less until it was almost invisible. So I let it go. Took the passage off the wall. Trusted God to bring it all together if/when he wanted. Plenty of other art to make.
And it has come together! Came together during prayer and song and then out through my hands like I knew exactly what I was doing. Still in progress, the series of visual meditations on the passage will be on display for a couple weeks in September. Deets here.
T Mulder art and thoughts on art.