Commissioned to celebrate her 25th Ordination Anniversary, Pastor Mary’s husband ordered a stole to be designed and made incorporating the Prayer of St. Francis, one of Mary’s favorite prayers. The prayer is wound through the design in gold, amongst a visual celebration of animals, insects and plants, and of course St. Francis. This design has turned out to be one of my favorites.
And since my commission schedule was full, we first sent her a framed sketch of the stole to come:
I had fun using the book cover graphics as guides to record some of my favorite theological explorations over the past several years onto a silk scarf.
By no means an exclusive list, they include
The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, Ilia Delio; Mystical Hope, Cynthia Bourgeault; The Divine Dance, Richard Rohr;
The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three, Cynthia Bourgeault; Super, Natural Christians, Sallie McFague, From Teinhard to Omega, ed. Ilia Delio;
The Divine Milieu, and Hymn of the Universe, both by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin; Making All Things New, Ilio Delia.
Some of these books I’ve read and re-read, underlined, defaced with comments and notes, and tabbed. Others have influenced me by osmosis: being around people who immersed themselves and consequently me in these authors’ thoughts. The latter include Sally McFague and Cynthia Bourgeault, whose books are on my reading list.
Just finished: an altar parament to add to the Easter Glory banners for Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Kennewick WA. I expanded and modified the medallion imagery in the Easter Glory banners (see previous post!) to make a sunburst. Yes, it could also be a flower! My intention is to capture the sacred, hope-filled and life-giving nature of both flower and sun. Silk dye on silk, 33″x22.5″, part of “Easter Glory” collection.
I so enjoyed painting this set of banners for Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, MN.
The goal of these banners is to lift up the natural habitat near this St. Paul suburb as God’s sacred creation. In order to do this I had to remember back to my childhood and early adulthood roaming the beautiful hardwood forests in eastern Iowa and the more northern birch forests of Minnesota. I am sure my first experiences of the sacred occurred from early childhood forrays into Grandma and Grandpa’s woods near Decorah, IA., later as a teen and young adult canoing in the Boundary Waters of northern MN, and then during collage years taking refuge from aceademia in the Nerstrand Woods near Northfield MN, a last remnant of the historic Big Woods of Wisconson and SE Minnesota.
As a full-fledged adult living rurally in North Idaho and remotely in the North Cascades Wilderness at Holden village, and still today near Bellingham WA I search for peace, for life lessons, for beauty and awe-inspiring power and inevitable change of everything, even rock. I search for that which is greater than me in the forests. If I’m really lucky, very still, or completely dumbstruck by what I experience in the wild, once in a while I can sense the God of Martin Luther, in, with, and through all things.
If I am very, very lucky, God’s creation is a door that leads me to Tielhard De Chardin’s Sacred Millieu, where the veil thins and I glimps the sacred.
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
It’s been a long process, and now we are reaping the rewards of patience, focused work and group process. The silk mural “Tree of Life” is now installed and doing its job at Faith Lutheran Church, Bellingham, WA
From Revelation 22
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Faith Lutheran Church does a lot of work with those in need in the surrounding neighborhood. They have a beautiful and productive community vegetable garden, whose produce is served in meals to any who are hungry. They have several programs designed to serve people in pain and in need, and to welcome the outsider into the fold. In other words, they aspire to provide fruit that ripens twelve months of the year, and leaves for the healing of many in their midst. They are like a tree of life planted in the street of the city, and look to that image for inspiration and strength.
Last Sunday’s service included a dedication for these banners. It was the first day on the job for this artwork. Colored light from the stained glass windows streaked across the banners illuminating the painting with a magical and ever-changing light. At times the light on the painting was almost overwhelming, then it changed in an instant to be more gentle, then the light fell on the wall a foot behind and between the two panels and onto the cross, and then raked across the space again in a new unpredictable way. The effect was one of impermanence and transparency, and of an external power influencing the piece. Theologically it was perfect, seen as the Light of God that illuminates and creates all.
What is not apparent from a frontal view as you enter the space is that the wooden cross actually hangs several feet in front of the silk, and the silk hangs about a foot from the wall. This allows for movement of the silk, and a three-dimentionality with the wall and the cross. When you approach the chancel from different directions you sense depth in what originally seems flat.
Here below is a picture from all the way back in the nave. I am pleased with how the painting fits in the the architectural space.
Thank you Pastor Sharon Swanson, assistant Jessie Twigg-Harris, and the congregation of Faith Lutheran Church for giving me the opportunity to do this work for you. My hope is that this artwork will do its job to acknowledge, uplift and inspire your already vibrant and growing mission to feed the hungry, to welcome the stranger, and to bring in the Reign of God here and now, right here in your Northwest Avenue neighborhood.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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!
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]
I am showing my “Butterfly Collection”through July and August 2013, at Brandywine Kitchen, 1317 Commercial Street, Bellingham, WA Come and see for yourself! It’s a wonderful sunny place to enjoy a gourmet sandwich or nice locally-sourced dinner, and to see some of my silk paintings.
Local butterflies are inspiration for these paintings. I love how the geometry of their wing design is echoed in the circular patterns of labyrinths and Celtic knots.I started this series of silk paintings after taking a field class in butterflies with famous Northwest butterfly expert Bob Pyle at North Cascades Institute, near Newhalem, WA.
I made three new paintings for this show, and am displaying them in a new fashion. Instead of stretching the finished silk paintings over stretcher bars, like a canvas is stretched over a frame, I hung the paintings from a rod at the top, and one at the bottom. This enables the silk fabric to move, which is a quality I really enjoy.
Besides the silk paintings I brought a pair of framed pen and ink drawings, a framed watercolor, both with the butterfly theme, and my silk painting “Gratitude Bouquet.” All artwork in the show is for sale. You can contact me at [email protected], or purchase from the Brandywine in person.