Edge of Faith May 2017 - Page 48

of years, and of course will be a part of this exhibit Faces of Mercy that Michelle Arnold has created. What does the art make you feel? Obviously some of it is a spiritual journey for you. How do you want your art to affect others? As I have matured over the years I have come to realize that the thing that got me started wanting to draw in the first place, even as a little boy of five to six years old, was mostly the human face and form; notably the face and the hands because that’s where I noticed people were com- municating most. They communicated through their faces, their eyes, their mouth, their hands. As a kid, I really loved nature. I did do drawing of flowers and things like that, but the thing that sustained my interest the most was the human body - the behavior and face. When I was in art school I pursued that very, very fiercely for six years, get- ting a lot of training in the human figure. I really wanted to be highly skilled with the human figure. Here s why; and this is what I feel about my work and what I want people to encounter in it. In the human face, in particular, there’s the potential to communicate their persona to the world, if people can let down their guard and take off their masks. When people feel safe, and they can let down their guard they live into their face, their faces becomes a place of encounter with that person. That’s where you meet them, in their face. To a lesser extent, in their body language or in their hands and gestures, but mostly in their face and the eyes. In every wrinkle, especially in older faces, I find that the person has finally inhabited their face, as it were, because there’s no longer any games to play. You’re now out of circulation in the world with status-seeking and the pursuit of power and money, possessions and position. You’re no longer jockeying for position. You’re just who you are. The elderly have finally just let down their guard. I think young people can let down their guard too, but it’s almost always when they feel really safe and really loved. That is, sadly, fairly rare in our world. And it’s funny, I have nothing against Facebook and social media, but the face that people show to Facebook is often constructive. Some people are really gifted at communicating on Facebook and they might be pretty transparent. But most of us proj- ect something, it’s all a part of that public persona. What I want people to encounter in my work when they look at my paintings is the face of the person that I’ve painted, and also, when I believe, the face of God. Because we are all image bearers of God, we are the Imago Dei, even if it’s clouded over by sin or by our bad choices or our fears or our self-loathing or whatever. That image is still there, the image of God. That’s what I want to paint, the unguarded face of the other because then you see the face of God. 48 • The Art of Faith Magazine • www.aofmag.com Because we are all image bearers of God, we are the Imago Dei, even if it’s clouded over by sin or by our bad choices or our fears or our self-loathing or whatever. That image is still there, the image of God.” In the current project I’m working on, I am collaborating with a poet from England, Malcolm Guide, and a composer out of California, J.A.C. Redford. The working title of our project is “Ordinary Saints,” the paintings I’m doing are just people I know and love and who I know love Christ. I’m trying to make these more than portraits, almost like icons but stopping short of being icons. A place where people can encounter that unguarded gaze of love. Could you explain a little of the symbolism found in the symbolism of the Second Adam piece, since we will be displaying it here in the magazine to allow people to understand it a little better? The first thing you see when you look at it installed in a museum or a gallery or a church, is the central figure — the crucified Savior, Jesus. Because the painting is in a triangular pattern, after that you will see a young ver- sion of the Virgin Mary in kind of an enclosure. I started thinking of that as a gated, enclosed garden, which is the symbol of Mary and her virginity. Around her you see a series of water pots or jugs, large vessels. I thought of that left-hand part of the painting as being Mary as a young woman before she meets Joseph, before she has the encounter with the angel Gabriel at Cana, because she had relatives in Cana. She was from Galilee and from the Nazareth area, but she was in Cana. In the painting I have imagined her in this enclosed garden, in this enclo- sure, with these water jugs in a state of contemplation, wondering if something important is going to happen here. On the right-hand side, again in the triangular pat- tern relative to the Christ figure, there’s an elderly Virgin Mary; the Mater Dolorosa - the Mother of Sorrows. She is in exactly the same contemplative pose, only a mirror image of her younger self on the left-hand side. She is at the foot of the cross contemplating the cost of our salva- tion to her son but also to herself. To all of us, the cost of our salvation which is Christ’s crucifixion and death on the cross. But it’s also, in a way, the fulfillment of what she’s contemplating on the left-hand side in Cana. The first miracle was the turning of the water into wine from the water jugs. That wine, in a sense, is a symbol of Christ’s blood that he poured out and continues to pour out in the eucharist; our invitation to God’s table through the hospitality of Christ and his sacrifice: “My body broken for you.” So that Cana becomes the first miracle. It is also a reference to when Mary said they had run out of wine, and Jesus said to her, “What is this to me or to you, woman, my hour has not yet come.” Of course, he is referring to, “His hour” being His crucifixion. So by doing that first miracle it basically unmasked who he was and started in motion the process of his eventually being arrested and beaten and scourged and crucified. The miracle of those hundred and eighty gallons of wine becomes a symbol of the end- less pouring out of his blood by his sacrifice. That is part of the innate symbolism of the entire painting. What you also see in the foreground in the central panel is Adam, bent over, in labor, holding onto a vine or a cord of some sort. If you follow that vine through his hands and up, it actually ends up becoming the cross. Jesus said in John 15, “I am the true vine and you are the branches. If you abide in me you will bear much fruit.”Adam, in his bent over labor in the vineyard, is replaced in a sense by the second Adam up above on the cross, Jesus - the second Adam, who can set into rights all things that have gone wrong as a result of Adam’s disobedience. As it says in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, “For as in Adam, all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” So Christ reverses the curse. If you look in the foreground of the right-hand side of the painting you’ll see a bent over female figure. That is Eve. She is bent over in labor, because not only would it be through labor after their disobedience, labor that the earth would bring forth fruit for Adam. Eve would have to be in labor to bring forth children - painful childbirth. So the theme is labor. Behind Eve is the Mater Dolorosa, the second Eve, the Virgin Mary. In some ways the painting is not really about the life of the Virgin Mary, but it’s about her son. Mary’s life, of course, is entirely interwoven with His. That’s just one layer of the symbolism. There were other things you would notice if you look carefully. For example, there is a Roman arch above the cross but it is shattered by the cross. This golden Roman arch is a symbol of human power as the triumphal arch that Rome put everywhere that it had conquest. In this painting, the weakness of the cross, the failure and apparent defeat, breaks down this human symbol of power, and interrupts the narrative of the triumphal human kingdom by showing what the real kingdom — the Kingdom of God — looks like; self-sacrifice and love, replacing the violence and the self importance, the pride and vanity of human power. So that’s one way to understand the painting, there’s more there but hopefully that’s an entry point. 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