Sunday, November 3, 2013

Gathering Thoughts for a Religious Painting

I have posted this on both my blogs.  'A Life Worth Living' and my 'Visual Art' blog because it applies to both. The progress of this art-piece, once I get started will be recorded here.

I am planning a painting for The Mandorla Art Award. The theme for 2014 “Elijah meets God” is taken from 1Kings 19:11b-13.

“Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?”

This got me thinking about how this encounter with God was not in the wind or the earthquake, but in the sheer silence, maybe a dream, while Elijah was hiding in a cave up on Mount Sinai.
Yesterday, I attended a professional development day, organised by Mandorla, where bible scholars and artists lectured and discussed this theme. We were also invited to play and paint with art materials that were provided. I had a fabulous day and met some interesting people that I hope to spend more time learning from, especially in the area of spiritual and religious art-making. We were told that there are very few religious artists today and more are needed in these times.

The Mandorla art award judges, will be looking for work that is deeply spiritual, but also linked to the context or drama that unfolds in the biblical narrative. It made me think that much of spirituality today is not anchored in any one story but rather a collection of stories from a number of different religions.

This is one of the challenges for me as I undertake a religious artwork. If I think about my religious background, I guess I grew up with humanism and expanded into a number of new age philosophies along with some Zen Buddhism. Then I took a giant leap into a 'born again' version of Christianity and from here was drawn to Christian meditation, the mystics, and sought spiritual direction from trained directors. Then I took a not so giant leap into Lutheranism. Now I probably fit into the Progressive Christianity or Emerging Church camp. Also feminine theology. I still hold onto Christian meditation in my heart and have a female spiritual director in the faith. Who knows what my spiritual life will evolve into next, but for some years now the Bible has been my central story along with many different ways of interpreting it's significance in daily life.

As I interpret my world mostly by what I experience, my relation and interpretation to this scripture about God and Elijah will be based not only on what I know to be factual in my head, but also by what I have experienced in my heart and spirit up till now.

I want my artwork to have a timeless message. One for all ages and all religions. One that is outside of creation but at the same time, in creation and in the heart of every human. Not much to ask of myself is it?!

Whatever Elijah was running away from, and running to, is what I want to visualise. To relate that to myself and my world, I think I am running from God and at the same time running to God. Could I be hiding from the silence that is God, but at the same time, it is what I long for? i wonder too if death is the ultimate silence.

Then there is that question God asks in the verse "Why are you here?" Why are we anywhere at any given time. A good question to ask myself.  Like all questions from God, our self-awareness is increased if we care to listen and respond. For me that is the dance. God asks the questions and we respond. That is what a personal God does. A God that is concerned for the universe, the earth, world politics and the individual. That is something that became clear to me in this verse. God guides and instructs, cares and protects, even though we may be totally unaware of God 's presence. 

The historical facts before and after this event with Elijah are recorded in the bible for all to see, but I want to focus on the heart of the story, the central happening, Elijah hiding from God and wanting out, and God coming to Elijah in the silence or a dream and asking him, "Why are you here?" I translate this as God saying, "It is okay Elijah! You want what I want, we are in this together, I am with you, get up and keep going as you were, you are doing a great job, come on let's go, everything will be okay!"

1 comment:

  1. Hi Janet from Cheryl

    Wow, what a great story to have to visually interpret!
    I got so excited about this project you are about to undertake I did a bit of research/contemplation myself. Read the Amplified Bible version and then sourced an online commentary, ie www.enduringword
    Very, very interesting commentary - I commend it to you.

    Anyways dear Janet, I will be praying that you continue hearing the still small voice and be guided and encouraged in all you do, and in particular as you undertake this artistic endeavour!