Proper big. Big space, big project, and big big blessing. Big thanks go to Rashad Polk, totes brill event photographer. Makes me feel like a rock star to work with him.
The big story. Earlier this year I received a commission for a worship space. The space is a multipurpose room at the headquarters of a national faith-based organization. The first step was to spend time in the space as well as dream-storming with the organization's chaplain. The primary wall to be addressed is 24 feet wide. The brief is to bring impact through color and theme that enhance the chapel experience while not being so churchy-churchy that the space doesn't work for other purposes. The space includes tables for eating / meeting and comfy lounge areas. In terms of theme, it is important to the chaplain that the piece brings encouragement to the staff. Their mission is to be a blessing to others and that flows from knowledge of being blessed, being loved, by God.
After the dream-storming session, the chaplain proposed a theme drawn from Scripture and I proposed design options. The theme is "God Has Poured His Love Into Our Hearts" from Romans chapter 5, verses 1 -5 which read:
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (ESV)
This is an action packed passage. The Apostle Paul is the author, teaching and encouraging the Christ-followers in Rome. He reminds them that peace with God, a peace that needed to be restored because Adam & Eve shattered it, comes not through our own actions but through Jesus. The promised Messiah Jesus took our all our shattered-ness, brokenness, shamefulness with him to the cross as the final atoning sacrifice in order to restore peace with God the Father. Eternal life of our soul, sorted. But he doesn't stop there. He goes on to encourage the Romans in earthly life. Following Christ is not a cake walk. Suffering ranges from being fed to the lions to being thought a fool, and myriad ways in between. But God didn't just redeem and run. Paul reminds the Romans, and us, that God also poured his love into our hearts by sending his Holy Spirit, member of the Trinity #3. He poured out, and pours out, his tender, personal love into our hearts. Into the very core of our being. This outpouring fuels, fortifies, and equips us to mature spiritually in all circumstances. Being reminded of that, knowing that God is actively working in us, is tremendous encouragement to serve others. We can pour into others because God has poured his love into us.
The chaplain has more insights into this passage which I'll share later in the process. From today through installation day in November, I'll be posting images as it all comes together. You might expect to see a heart or two. You'd be right.
4 x 4" palette trash mosaic "TEAL #5" Lustrous teal and blue streams end in a raw fabric edge. $75.00. Includes display easel. When purchased by 9/26, 50% will be donated to NOCC's Together in TEAL campaign to support ovarian cancer awareness.
During Artscape's live chat August 23rd, I made this teeny tiny triptych. Each piece is 2.5" square. Color inspiration came from cancer awareness colors near and dear to my heart: teal for ovarian as well as cervical cancer, peach for uterine & endometrial cancer, and purple which encompasses all gynecologic cancers. There is no part of the body cancer can't hit, even the ones we don't talk about so much. I added the lime green because it looks good with purple. Turns out lime green is the awareness color for Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Good to know.
This morning I titled it: Sky, Eggplant, Basil, Peach. Colors often make me think of tastes. From Sara Waters at Texas Tech I learned the term "licky" for vibrant colors, coined by her daughter as a child. What better compliment? I also wanted a title about anything BUT cancer. When cancer touches your life it's a huge, rock-your-world kinda thing. AND it's not your whole life. The world continues to spin, there is delight to be had, love to be shared, nourishment to take, and beauty to see everywhere from God. Look around, look up.
Blessed to be one of 75 artists chosen for the 2020 online marketplace version of Artscape August 21 - 30. I'm excited to showcase new palette trash mosaics and demo my process via live video chat. The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BoPA) is providing the online marketplace at no cost to artists. Incredible! To be a blessing in turn, I will donate 10% of proceeds to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition's Together in Teal event September 26, a cause near and dear to my heart.
He also came in glory, fully God as well as fully human. The verse continues, "and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth." He became flesh in order to be the final atoning sacrifice for the sin that Adam and Eve let out of the bag. We sing a lot of "glorias" at Christmas but my mind went to the glory of the cross, when adult Jesus took my place. He took to the cross, took into his flesh, all my sin, all my selfishness, everything in me that is contrary to him. By enduring the cross, held there by his obedience as much or more than any nail, and being raised from the grave on the third day, he washed away all that awful as if it never existed. Freed me from it. Fixed my relationship with the Father as if Adam and Eve had never broken it. Grace undeserved. Truth revealed.
Fueled by the excerpt, "...and we have seen his glory..." I cut strips of left over palette trash and started to play. I may have attempted an abstract nativity but quickly moved on to cross forms. Two crosses turned into four. Then I was on a roll and kept working past Christmas. About 25 altogether were made. All on paper, ranging from 2.5 to 4 inches square. A few were mailed before I thought to photograph them. Here are 20 or so.
November 1st marked one year since receiving the news of NED (no evidence of disease) status after treatment for ovarian cancer. I decided to celebrate by making a three-panel altarpiece to praise God for my health and his tender care. Each panel is 16 x 20".
Hezekiah, a king of ancient Judah, became dear to me during treatment thanks to my nephew. I was diagnosed during surgery. Before I was awake, my mother texted my sister, "It's cancer." My nephew saw the text first and said, "Tante's going to die." My totes brill sister simply said, "Some people do die from from cancer like your Opa, but not everybody does." "Okay," he said, "then I pray God gives her 15 more years of life like King Hezekiah." And he sent the Scripture passage from II Kings 20 about Hezekiah's illness and recovery. Did I mention he was about 11 years old at the time? Our dear Bible scholar.
When I was lucid in recovery, my mother read the account aloud. As she started, the woman on the other side of the curtain in recovery asked to hear as well. Mom moved between us, and read with a strong voice and teary eyes. The prophet Isaiah told Hezekiah to get his house in order because he was going to die. Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and cried out to the Lord. And the Lord was moved. He sent Isaiah back to say that he had heard Hezekiah's prayer and had seen his tears. Seen his tears! The Lord was granting him 15 more years of life. We joked about the 15 for me being "on the top" or "at least".
A couple weeks later I decided to see if there were more to the story in the book of Isaiah. Jackpot. In chapter 38 there is a bit of a recap as well as Hezekiah's response in a lovely psalm or poem of praise. First he goes on a bit about how awful it was that he almost died. Lays it on pretty thick. Then he shifts to the impact of the anguish, knowing that it is for his benefit. My tears turned to sobs as I read this aloud. Hezekiah, flawed but faithful, rejoices in God's forgiveness with an image of his sins being cast behind God's back. God's forgiveness, spiritual restoration, is so complete our sins are unreachable to him. Those were healing words. While I know I'm forgiven in Christ, this was a reminder to truly feel forgiven, feel released from shame. Hezekiah closes with an eagerness to worship. All he wanted to do when healed was "sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the Lord." (v 20)
I read Hezekiah's psalm every day for months. Sometimes with tears, sometimes with dancing. Always with an eagerness to praise God for his loving-kindness. He hears our prayers, sees our tears. Sometimes the Lord heals us by bringing us to heaven, sometimes he heals us here on Earth. Likewise, there are times when he heals miraculously, others when he uses earthy means. In Hezekiah's case, it was a poultice of figs, mine surgery and chemo. Hezekiah also asked for a visible sign that God would heal him. Who among us hasn't asked for such assurance at one time or another?
For this commemorative work, I wanted to focus on praise and worship. An altarpiece was the way to go. I had the three blank canvases on hand, sourced at a favorite rehab store. My mosaic technique with strips of dried paint reminded me of strings on instruments, strummed and plucked to make colorful music. I spent more than a month building it up, striving for a semblance of symmetry and a dance of light to move the eye. I still need to decide on framing but will likely add hinges for displaying like a traditional altarpiece. Handles or a case of some sort could keep it portable for pop up worship spaces. Whatever the final finish or destination, I pray the altarpiece lifts eyes to God - our Creator, Savior, Healer, and Comforter. The One who gave his Son in atonement for us and who sees our tears.
Watch a brief comment on the Hezekiah story along with a community prayer for people impacted by cancer. Given October 2019 at Grace Community Church.
Less than 3 weeks to show time at Zella's Pizzeria near downtown Baltimore Nov 6 - 30. SoWeBo Arts paired me with fellow artist Bridget Cimino, talented MICA grad known for her murals around Baltimore. Check out her work. Join us opening night Nov 6 from 5 to 8p.
Right now I'm debating which works to take. Most will be small works, ready to hang. Here are the first nine to make the cut. Lotsa gray and black with pops of gold foil. Full list with special holiday prices coming soon. If you can't make it to Zella's but have your eye on a piece, just let me know.
12 x 36" mosaic on canvas with gold foil "Milestones"
12 x 12" mosaic on wood with gold foil "Gold & Gray"
12 x 12" mosaic on canvas "Mauve On"
Mosaic in a 10 x 10 ish wood box "Prayer Box"