Rooted and Grounded in Love

A Meditation on Ephesians 3

©2014 Kristen Gilje

©2014 Kristen Gilje, commissioned by St. Marks by the Narrows, Tacoma, WA

The Ephesian 3 text was chosen by St. Marks Lutheran Church by the Narrows, Tacoma WA for their 60th anniversary. This letter from Paul talks in part about the cosmic nature of God and paradoxically how God is also present with us in our earth-bound existence.

I chose a tree to represent the union of the vast, cosmic nature of God and the earthly nature of our local lives in community.   This tree is a version of the tree of life, an archetype that spreads throughout human culture. A tree reaches towards the sky and onwards towards the planets, while being rooted firmly in the ground. It is a reminder that we are indeed connected to the world and universe outside our daily and earthly routines, even though we often forget. Here it represents both the wood of the cross alive, and Christ as connecter of heaven to earth.

In my first sketch for  this design I made the tree stretch tall and strong, up to the planets. And I made a tap root that stretched down, down, deep within the earth and anchored by subterranean rocks. I sent this design off to the commissioning pastor, who wrote back asking me to please put a few more trees in the composition.

This pastor grew up on the coast. He knew that trees growing on the western coast of North America don’t have deep roots; they have shallow roots. And they grow in groves. The shallow roots of the trees intertwine with one another to support each other. A shallow-rooted tree growing alone would get toppled by coastal winter storms, but a grove of trees with an intertwining root mass can withstand all nature can throw at them.

So I put some more trees in, made the roots more horizontal and intertwining.

The houses under the central tree represent our human community, specifically the community of this particular congregation. Our relationships are like roots that reach out to one another in community, and hopefully out even further  to support those considered outside of our community, to support them too.

Kristen Gilje, Rooted and Grounded in Love Det.

And finally, the vast quantities of water that make the Northwest so great in this piece also represent the water of life in Rev. 22, flowing from the throne of God,  nurturing the tree of life which bears good fruit for all. My prayer is that this same Spirit of God, present in, with and through all things will nurture our communities with all its relationships, humankind and other, so that we bear good fruit for the sake of all humanity and all the earth.

 

 

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Breaking Wave as Baptismal Image

Commission for a Seaside Church

©2014 Kristen Gilje Breaking Wave

©2014 Kristen Gilje Breaking Wave, 8 feet by 55 inches, silk dye on silk.

I painted this 8 foot by 54 inch banner, for a church in Manasquan NJ,  immediately after finishing “Zion’s Waterfall.” I had enjoyed being very loose with the dyes, letting them mix and make textures without much control at all, using hardly any resist. In “Breaking Wave” I wanted to preserve the free and uncontrolled feeling with a different technique: painting with wax. This involved using the resist, which usually I use to control the dye, in a free and easy way. I bought 5 different sizes and shapes of brushes to make varying textures and painterly wax marks on the silk.

The process was similar to making a layered print. The very first wax marks preserved the white of the silk, only where I wanted highlights. Next I put a light layer of blues over the whole piece. After that dried, I put another layer of wax only where I wanted this light blue preserved….then a darker blue, and more wax, until I had all the color values I wanted on the finished piece, from lightest to darkest.

The original idea for this piece came from the pastor who commissioned it. Her congregation had been devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and her idea was to  make a Hurricane Sandy Baptismal Banner. The idea was an intriguing challenge. I love to connect natural images with sacred rite and ritual. After researching photos of the devastation on the web, I came up with the following image. However, I could not find any hope in the subject at all, no sense of the holy.

©2014 Kristen GiljeHurricane Sandy

©2014 Kristen Gilje Sketch for Hurricane Sandy Baptismal Banner

Even though this piece was more about the destructive forces of nature than the transforming sacred power of baptism, the commissioning pastor liked it.  I also had gotten quite attached to the idea of making this piece, not because it represented baptism, but instead the awesome and fierce power of nature, and the challenge of making it. NOT the intended goal…

The idea was to somehow lift the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy into the hands of God, recognizing the sacred water of baptism even in the terrifying walls of water in the storm. This was definitely too fresh a catastrophe for the idea to work. And the image represents “My God, why have you forsaken us?” better than baptism.  We realized that this image was not what her people needed, and changed course.

 Challenging art needs to be appropriate for the congregation it serves, and needs especially a person to facilitate discussion around the art, to lead people into challenging ideas with purpose. The purpose is not the art, but the idea.  And the idea must be carefully chosen. The art is a tool for thinking about the challenging idea.

The pastor knows their congregation and what they need the most, and how great or small a challenge they need, and most importantly what they need challenging on.

 We turned instead to an image more familiar and less challenging but still powerful: A wave breaking over rocks. I could indeed find the Holy here in the awesome power of water to transform even a rock, but also to nurture life and bring joy. It is a good image of the transforming power of baptism.

Here are pictures of my own exploration of a wave….first on newsprint 9 feet by 55 inches just learning shapes and values.

2014 Kristen Gilje

next a “map” simplified version, Still got carried away by the detail. I put this one under the silk to help me place the dye and wax.

2014 Kristen Gilje

This wax process was new for me…it was fun to have the WAX make the mark, rather than the dye.

My driving emotion for this piece is awe of the sacred in nature, despair in its failure, and hope/faith for change.This is now in a New Jersey church, as a symbol of the transformative power of the waters of baptism.

 

 

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Zion’s Waterfall Up and Hanging

At Zion’s River , Tacoma, WA

This large 3-panel banner which I call a silk mural, was hung this winter, and really makes a presence as you walk into the sanctuary. It is 36 feet long and 8 feet wide. My task was to design “an abstract waterfall”, leaving room for interpretation.

Zion's WaterfallThe wall behind and around this silk mural was painted a medium dark brown to echo some of the rock colors, and to help enhance their videos. Apparently darker colors are better than light ones for this.

This church pushed me in a very positive way, from my comfort level of more representational art to more abstract work. I chose a very limited pallet of blues, with a bit of the complementary dark orange/browns, used value  (lights and darks) to drive the design, and really let the silk dye do the work itself instead of controlling it with a lot of detail.

Originally the mural was designed so the cross would hang two-thirds of the way up the banner. This would be on  the lower part of the dark stream coming down from the top, and above the white waterfall streams that are hitting the rocks.  I hope someday they will do this, but we’ll see. When an artist makes a piece it’s a bit like bringing a child into the world: you have to let go when they leave home.

If you would like to follow the process of designing and making this project, scroll down to see 4 or 5 earlier posts about Zion’s Waterfall. You can see the project morphed quite a bit, before we settled on a final design.

 

 

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Tree Of Life at Earth Ministry Celebration

Eco-Social Justice: A painting does work in the world

Cynthia Moe-Lobeda is the keynote speaker this evening at Earth Ministry’s “Celebration of St. Francis: Ecojustice, Social Justice, and the Christian Conscience.” She will be showing a slide of my work “Tree of Life” as a background to her talk.

©1999 Kristen Gilje Tree of Life, 8 feet by 12 feet, acrylic on panel

Dr. Moe-Lobeda is author of Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation, a new book that examines how climate change and other aspects of the earth crisis are inseparably linked to race/ethnicity, gender, and class-based oppression.  She will be speaking on what it means to resist environmental racism and to build more sustainable and just alternatives — and to do so as a fervent claim to hope and moral power. Here’s a link to the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/232105500276124/

resisting-structural-evil-2

I am honored that my image “Tree of Life” (acrylic on panel, 8 feet by 12 feet, 1999) is the cover art for her book, especially because of the subject matter. I am pleased that my painting is developing a life of it’s own and doing its work in the world.

 

And I am very pleased that Earth Ministry http://earthministry.org  exists. Here is their mission: “Earth Ministry engages the Christian community in environmental stewardship. Through our Washington Interfaith Power & Light project, we organize a multi-faith response to climate change.”

Below is a picture of St. John United Lutheran Church,  5515 Phinney Ave. N, Seattle, WA, where the event tonight will be.

st-john-united-lutheran-church 5515 Phinney Ave. N, Seattle, WA 98103

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Zion’s Waterfall Finished

Almost ready for hanging

Zion's Waterfall Det.

It’s been a very busy summer, but the 36 foot by 8 foot abstract waterfall project is just about finished. This weekend I took the 3 silk panels back to the school gym floor and unrolled them to check finished size and appearance. I am very pleased with the final layers of dye, and think that the goal of a sense of “power” and “mystery” translates very well. I measured everything, and with cutting, rolling, painting, washing, steaming and shrinkage,  the panels are very very close to the desired size. The center panel is one inch longer than the other two (difference in shrinkage), and when the panels are side by side with no gap they measure 8 feet by 6 inches exactly, top and bottom, which is what we were shooting for.

The picture below shows the scale of this project, when you see the piano in the upper right hand corner.

Zion's Waterfall

I have hemmed the 216 feet of the side edges of the panels, and am about to make the 12 foot slit in the center panel so it can open for the immersion baptismal pool behind the panels.  Then I’ll take the 4’x 15″  rectangle out of the top middle of the center panel to make room for the beam in the ceiling, then hem both of those.

Also, all the tops of the silk panels will have sleeves for a rod, to be hung either from the wall or from the underside of the beam.  I will lastly put sleeves in the bottom of all the panels in casewe want to run a rod through those too, for stabilizing.

 

 

 

To see full pictures, click on one of the thumbnails below.

 

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Steam Setting a Silk Painting

Using stovepipe and propane burners to steam-set silk dyes

kristen-steaming-sm-crop

Once the silk dye has been applied to the silk, the dyes need to be steam-set to bond permanently with the fabric. Before steaming water can wash most of the dye from the silk, but after steaming water will not hurt the silk painting. The painting becomes permanent. (Except for direct sunlight! In direct sunlight the silk painting will fade. Indirect sunlight is fine.)

kristen-steaming-lg-crop

Here you can see the set-up I use to steam my silk. I am steaming “Zion’s Waterfall”, which consists of three silk panels: two are 37 feet by 28 inches, and one is 37 feet by 52 inches.  The widest panel is being steamed in the tallest stovepipe, and one of the narrower panels is in the shorter stovepipe.

You can see the silk painting in different stages in earlier posts by clicking on the following:

River Theme for a Northwest Church, which shows the first attempts at a waterfall design, too realistic for the client; Waterfall Update, showing watercolor sketch of a more abstract design; next is Preparing for a Large Project on choosing colors, making the frames, and practicing; and Zion’s Waterfall 3/4 Done where you can see the 37 feet of painted silk rolled out on a big floor to see how it looks so far.

To steam the silk it is first  rolled up in newsprint and brown wrapping paper, making sure there is room on the top of the roll to drill a hole through the top inch. I stick this paper/silk roll inside the stovepipe, then thread a wire through holes in the top of the stovepipe and the drilled hole through the paper roll. Now the stovepipe can be upended, with the paper roll hanging from the wire inside the stovepipe.

Next I stick the whole affair into a hotel-sized pot on a propane burner, fill the pot with water, seal the space between pot and pipe with aluminum foil crimped under the rim of the pot and taped with masking tape to the pipe, so there are no holes for steam to escape. I light the burner, and let the water boil and make steam for 3-5 hours, depending on how thick my roll is. Oh yes, the lid on top of the pipe is 1-2 inches of New York Times papers, procured from local co-op’s recycle bin, secured with masking tape to the top of stovepipe. Somehow it all works! I can tell if the steaming is successful in two ways: that the colors are more intense than before steaming, and when hand-washing (next step after steaming) that clouds of excess dye do not wash out of the silk, but just a little bit of dye that is not bonded to the silk.

If you want to do this process yourself there are more details to know for success. For now I can suggest Susan Louise Moyer’s book “Silk Painting” where you will find complete directions. I’ll write complete instructions later this summer for those interested.

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A Challanging Color Scheme

New Banner for PA Senior Home

The chapel at Artman Senior Home has a bright burgandy carpet and white walls.  The paraments that decorate the alter are changed seasonally, with a different color for each season. When I looked at pictures of the chapel with the old banner in place it seemed we could do more to integrate the seasonal colors of red, purple, blue, green, white and gold into the space by designing with a new color scheme to incorporate each seasonal color in a better way than before.

©2013 Kristen Gilje, Silk dye on silk, 6'6" X 4'6" for Artman Home, Ambler, PA

©2013 Kristen Gilje, Rejoice in the Lord, silk dye on silk, 6’6″ X 4’6″ for Artman Home, Ambler, PA

The chapel at Artman Senior Home has a bright burgandy carpet and white walls.  The paraments that decorate the alter are changed seasonally, with a different color for each season. When I looked at pictures of the chapel with the old banner in place it seemed we could do more to integrate the seasonal colors of red, purple, blue, green, white and gold into the space by designing with a new color scheme to incorporate each seasonal color in a better way.

rejoice-old-banner

Artman Chapel with old banner

I purposely put all the traditional seasonal colors of the Christian church into this design, so that in any season the paraments would find an echo in the banner. Look closely and you will see that green, blue,  purple, red, white, and gold are all included in this painting. And of course we could not forget the burgandy of the carpet!

©2013 Kristen Gilje, Rejoice in the Lord, Silk dye on silk, 6'6

©2013 Kristen Gilje, Rejoice in the Lord, Silk dye on silk, 6’6

It took me quite a while to figure out how to do this. But I remembered a design I made for a stained glass window, installed in North Seattle, that I had always wanted to re-do in silk. It had a yellow-green base color. Yellow-green is the complementary color to magenta (close to the burgandy color) so I chose to go with that same color scheme: Yellow-green, magenta, gold. and I threw in some  cerulean blue for good measure. I think it worked!

Of course I have to give credit to friend and calligrapher Laura Norton,  Bellingham WA, for designing the beautiful lettering that I painted on the silk. You can reach her at [email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

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