In fall of 2020 creatives engaged in a six-week series of Gospel teachings with the eyes of artists. There they found nourishment to grow in faith, creative courage, vision, and energy for the work. Some of the participants share their works in this online show.
Michelle Schmidt ~ Lewiston, Idaho
“‘Outside Church’ has become part of a regular Sunday morning devotional practice for me since March, when the Covid pandemic hit. It’s a time of prayer, worship, awe — and sometimes the landscape preaches a short sermon. These words came from one morning in October, inspired by verses in Isaiah 40.”
Ched Johnson ~ Lewiston, Idaho
Behind the Veil
“This piece is a recently created cold wax and oil abstract. A new wabi sabi medium for me which I am loving. Layers upon layers of intuitive attention. It started out with an appearance of a woman. I had laid down a layer or two and let it dry for a day. Returned and there she was. I kept working around her, adding and subtracting layers, scraping in between. I went to bed, puzzled somehow. And then it felt like the painting shifted, I shifted with it and I ended up with the version where you no longer see her but she very much informs and holds the piece and me.
“This wabi sabi experiment with cold wax and oils brings to light what our final class focused on. [Matthew 6:22: The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.] Here, the low landscape line on this one allows layers of light to come through and is picked up below as I scraped through pigment to lower layers.”
Amy Jenott ~ Nampa, Idaho
Janet Richards ~ Moscow, Idaho
Playing it Safe
Early Sunday I took a walk on the paved paths along Paradise Creek in Moscow. I’ve always loved this flat route behind Good Samaritan Village (GSV) and the winding path that cuts through a wooded glade behind the nursing home. Like many oldsters, I feel cooped up by Covid and walking is peaceful, meditative, and allows time for the natural world to soothe my troubled soul.
I was ambling past some bushes between the twin homes and the nursing facility on that fall morning, lost in thought, when I looked up to see the huge female moose lying in the grass next to the path less than 10 feet away. Two of her Clydesdale-sized “babies” sat at her side. She hoisted herself to her full height in seconds and stalked toward me as I began to run across the yard to the parking lot. I haven’t moved that fast in years.
Signs along the walkways by Good Sam admonish the public to “Keep These Paths SAFE For Our Seniors,” but of course wild animals can’t read. Will I ever again know the peace I once felt walking this route? Is any place in the world truly safe?
The wind whips, cracking tree branches that plummet to the ground. Pesky pathogens flourish not just in soil, leaves, and squirrel fur but on every surface on earth. Every human body is host to trillions of microorganisms and daily exposed to millions more. Bats carry rabies. A lightning strike, falling meteor, human psychopath, even an innocent acorn on asphalt could act as a ball bearing propelling a person to a head crushing contact with the pavement. Then there’s that viscous virus wafting through the air; Covid spittle floating on a crisp fall breeze as unmasked dog walkers tootle by. The path of life is pocked with peril.
The threat of Covid, more than any other possible calamity, seems to have stunted everyone’s lives. So many things that give joy, order, and meaning are on hold. Deep converations, rich connections, and human interactions that we took for granted have been replaced with a glowing screen with a grid of somber faces. Zoom networking breakfasts (no calories) and virtual memorial services (no hugs) are sorry substitutes. Fear is leaving legions of people hungry, isolated, and alone as time, which is finite for everyone, slips silently away.
“Do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation.” says C.S Lewis commenting on life in the age of the atomic bomb. The Coronavirus may be “novel,” but the situations we moderns find ourselves in are not. History is rife with devastating diseases like small pox, the 1918 flu, polio, and the plague that wiped out entire families, not to mention horrendous holocausts and wars. “And it is perfectly ridiculous,” Lewis adds, “to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world, which already bristled with such chances in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.”
“Those who try to save their own life will lose it; those who lose their life will save it.” Luke 17: 33) Is it time to prudently let loose of our tight hold on so-called safety and begin to live again? Can we stop fomenting fear with anecdotal stories, and statisitics, and doomsday senarios, and embrace our masked and space-conscious lives with open-armed panache? The indomitable human spirit has always risen to the occasion and so can we.
Let’s start living After all, even with strident attempts to “play it safe,” death might be just one “bonk-of-a-hoof-on the head” away.
Anne Newcomb ~ Jackson, Wyoming
“I’ve been working on this (below) to use for our Christmas card. The reason for the bears: Here, near and in Grand Teton National Park, an old grizzly sow, known as (bear) number 399, has made a habit of raising her cubs in the midst of a heavily trafficked tourist area in the Park. She’s done this for decades and has raised a number of litters (cubs stay with their mom for two years, then get chased off). So Bear number 399 is a local legend and the famous wildlife photographer, Tom Mangelson, follows her around and has written at least one book about her. She also has a regular entourage of other locals. She is 24 years old and last fall people speculated that she is too old to have cubs. This spring she emerged from her den with four cubs of the year! People love to drive around looking for her and taking photographs. She ignores them. But this autumn, she decided to head south, out of the Park, past the ski area, through the town of Wilson and its suburbs, right through the middle of at least one cattle herd, (without so much as looking at the cattle) and through some high-end sub divisions. She was seen with her cubs eating a deer on a golf course. Her followers worried. Eventually she went back to the Park, but only for a day, then headed south again. This time of the west side of the river. (A friend sent me photos.) But last I heard she’s back in Grand Teton Park. So she’s a legend, and to my mind, a heroine. Thus, the card.”
Nancy Collins -Warner ~ Lenore, Idaho
In the Space of the Sky
“During our six weeks, the project I engaged with was remaking an already beautiful picture book, In the Space of the Sky, a poem by Richard Lewis, illustrated with the collages of Debra Frasier. They have collaborated before, I love their work, and trust it is not a desecration to enter in with it and extend it with my own collaging and poems. Each double page spread served one of the weeks of our retreat together. I would do the collaging first, creating a pocket or space for a poem I might catch…then after listening to the reflections, I would invite the Muse to send a poem from the places I might go from the content of the week.
There was playfulness, as well as some wrestling reflecting, for me so the “spontaneous creative combustion” poems that came are simply that: first expressions of a moment’s state of being. The photos, while giving you a suggestion of the book, can’t capture how it so beautifully works by reading through it all, both the original text and then discovering my riffs and songs in their caches.”
Filled with Light
My mother, in her last years, became legally blind,
light gone from her eyes, but not from her spirit.
My brother, toward the end of his too-short life,
body mangled, gave golden light from his eyes.
My friend, who died only a few months after diagnosis,
became radiant, light-filled as the seasonal aspen trees.
When the eye of the soul is singularly focused
on some all-consuming thing, one transfigures
into a Being of Light: blind but seeing;
lame but soaring; dying but burning.
I know this, from mine own single eye.
Pearl Maxner ~ Syringa, Idaho
Aprons and Christmas Cards
“I was tired of painting for awhile and a bit discouraged about not finishing things. So I got out my sewing machine and got really excited about a project for my grand-girls. Aprons for all. Even though I followed a pattern I picked out the fabric. The next one I am constructing with a lot of found parts of old table cloths and it is coming together, feeling fun. I haven’t sewn for years. I also decided to send a photo of a few cards I did for others this season.”
Barbara Bjelland ~ Grand Rapids, Michigan
Madonna and Child of Budapest
“My painting was inspired by a trip I took to Hungary last year, and by my prayer for God’s love and redemption to continue to work in that beautiful place. In the background is the Parliament building and St. Matthias Church. (The latter is actually on the other side of the Danube River and up the hill a bit.)
I learned that Jews were lined up and shot in front of the Parliament building during WW 2. Their bodies fell into the river, turning it red with blood. There is a memorial with bronze shoes on that spot. May we never forget.
May we also have eyes to see how God is still working, and may that give us hope and motivation to address troubles in the world today. I was inspired as I heard stories of Christians who gave their lives to protect the Jews, and as I met present day ministers of the gospel that bring different ethnic groups together.
God suffers with and for all the afflicted (Isaiah 63:9). I envisioned Mary and the humble infant Christ going down into the river with the people, carrying them UP TO GOD on angel’s wings.”
Wendy Cabell ~ Alsea, Oregon
Craftemplative, a blog project (click on image)