Art is not created in a vacuum. The solitary artist is influenced by living.
The line drawn between art and artist is not often a straight line, but a culmination of what has been, what is, and what might be.
Creating is a hopeful act. The creator hopes or the creator would not create. Some days I am bold enough to say that without hope, creation is not possible.
I paint hope.
Hope that the mess of living will ultimately resolve into beauty.
Hope is the faith component of my work. Hope is the human component of my work. Hope qualifies my work as a contemporary artist because I paint in response to now. Hope, while addressing what has been and what might be, deals directly with the here and now-today.
Awareness of past mixed and with consideration for the future empowers and enables now.
The balance is delicate.
My faith tradition is one of happy endings.
To leave unacknowledged the struggle and pain of living is disingenuous. No life is without struggle or pain, no path is without obstacle.
This summer as a church we are reading through the book of Genesis. I find these stories painful, partly because of how they have been preached in the past. These are ancient and difficult stories. So what do we do with these hard stories? We cast them aside as fodder for the children’s programs.
Unexplored since childhood there are surprises for the adult heart.
Most of us who grew up in church heard sermons by males who failed to present a full spectrum of characters in the stories.
There are always women in the stories.
Women who are seldom considered.
Women who are dismissed, glossed over or present with bias. The female characters are presented as NOT-QUITE-HUMAN.
(Did Michaelangelo never see a nude woman? ) The image of women is not only distorted by the greats in art but by the greats in theology, today and throughout history.
One of the joys of attending Trinity Episcopal is the consideration of the women in the stories. These women are invited to come forward, to step out from behind the wall and share their stories. Women who have been treated as aside are treated with respect. The women’s stories are not just included, but celebrated.
Agency is returned to the women of the Bible stories.
WHAT does this have to do with art?
Is it even remotely related?
Painting is my voice. Visual art is my avenue to be heard. Art gives me agency.
This past Sunday Amy Haynie, one of our priests, shone a light on an oft-maligned or even ignored character: Hagar. The sermon is not yet up on the podcasts and I am so sorry for that. I don’t know when it will go up. I will let you know.
Here is an excerpt from the Monday morning email, this one sent by Mother Amy Haynie concerning her sermon on Hagar, “In studying the two stories of Hagar we get in Genesis, we find a remarkable woman to whom God speaks to twice. She is much more than a “slave woman.” Phyllis Trible, in Texts of Terror, wrote of Hagar,
“Most especially, all sorts of rejected women find their stories in her. She is the faithful maid exploited, the black woman used by the male and abused by the female of the ruling class, the surrogate mother, the resident alien without legal recourse, the other woman, the runaway youth, the religious fleeing from affliction, the pregnant young woman alone, the expelled wife, the divorced mother with child, the shopping bag woman carrying bread and water, the homeless woman, the indigent relying upon handouts from the power structures, the welfare mother, and self-effacing female whose own identity shrinks in service to others.” “
The word Gospel means “good news.” In today’s world, what is presented as gospel is too often wielded as a weapon of destruction.
Sunday, the third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Amy offered extraordinarily good news.
Amy held out evidence from the Good Book that God sees women. And not just neat and tidy women. Women rode hard and put up wet. Women who have thrown under and driven over by the proverbial bus.
And the proverbial bus?
It is real.
So very, very real.
The driver of that bus looks like the invented, man-made, created God revered by generations of empowered men. Men who have failed to use their power to
empower, particularly failing to empower women.
The first recorded name of God is assigned by Hagar, “God Who Sees Me.”
Another commonly used name for God is God Almighty. El Shaddai. The Breasted One.
The Breasted One is NOT driving the bus.
Giving voice to the women in the Bible takes nothing away from men.
Giving voice to women in society today takes nothing away from men.
This is my baby, Jubilee. She is empowered by her four older brothers and big sister. She is empowered by El Shaddai, God Almighty, the Breasted One. Jubilee doesn’t know the bus driver and our prayer is that she never meet him. Our prayer is that she continues as a walking, breathing, living image of God.
And so I paint. I paint hope. I paint to give voice to stories old and I paint to make old stories new. There may be nothing new under the sun, but that does not mean there is not something new for you and me to see.
I hope you have an enlightening week. I hope you are seen. I hope you are heard. I hope that your heart and mind find peace. Sincerely, Gwen
PS A plethora of names for God are scattered throughout the old and new testaments. El Shaddai, the breasted one, God Almighty is in there.