Artists interpret sacrament and nature

Alisa E. Clark “I Have a Confession,” acrylic, alcohol ink, permanent marker, and gold film on illustration board

By Linda Brooks

The Episcopal Church & Visual Arts (ECVA) online artists exhibit space (www.ecva.org) has opened its second curated show for 2022 on “Sacrament and Image.” Guest curator Mary Jane Miller, iconographer and author, stated, “Sacraments reflect church community and how we see ourselves through song, praise, image, prayer, and liturgy. Art is an artist’s testament to our care for one another, our communion with Mother Earth, and our stewardship of the planet. The art and artist commentaries are diverse, as they each illustrate versions and aspects of how we think about the seven sacraments and our mother Earth.”

The show includes 38 images from 21 artists and divided into Eucharist, Baptism, Unction, Marriage, Priesthood, Confession, and Confirmation, and how these sacraments are viewed through the artist’s perception of the world around them.

Miller said, “Our artist membership at ECVA is growing. We are diverse in nature and style. It is exciting to see such a diverse interpretation of ancient sacrament. It revived my spirit to see in the work variations that call to mind the seven sacraments in new ways. Let there be peace on the planet and every walk of life.”

Here is a sample of some of the many beautiful pieces exhibited and the artists’ reflections and inspirations. See the entire exhibit at www.ecva.org.  Photos/courtesy of the artists

Alisa E. Clark

I have a confession to make. I fear I have turned away. I have walked away from organized religion. I believe in the Bible but not Biblical inerrancy. Christian music often sounds trite when it once always moved me. Politics mixed with religion has driven me away from the traditions I once embraced. I’m not “clicking” with the people in my church: there is a disconnect. I feel lost. Then, I look at myself in this painting, and I am less afraid. She is beautiful. She glows. She is what’s left of me, and she’s doing her best to find her way back. I know I am making mistakes that grieve God. Still, there’s something beautiful in it all that I am reaching for.

Claudia Smith, “Baptism” Oil painting

Claudia Smith

Christ’s presence, although not outwardly visible, is inwardly and spiritually felt and acknowledged through the Holy Spirit. The love and joy that the event and His “felt” presence produces, reveals itself when it transforms us from within.

This wondrous sacrament and transformation is our guide, showing our hearts and souls the way. It is imperative that we listen and follow!

The sacrament of Holy Baptism is visible to us as it occurs. We welcome it, participate in it, embrace and rejoice in it. Its outwardly visible sign is water. Christ’s presence, although not outwardly visible, is inwardly and spiritually felt and acknowledged. The love and joy that the event and His “felt” presence produces, reveals itself when it transforms us from within.

Michael Prettyman, “Sandy Eyed We Slept,” Oil on canvas

Michael Prettyman

We wake up together. Even if what we wake up to is on fire, remember that in some important ways we chose this, and each other. It is better to be awake then asleep, especially if the hillside is on fire, and when things go sideways it’s better to not be all alone.

In this painting there are two sequoias on fire, two red giants, intertwined. They grew up from seeds together, and today they are going out together. The fire that consumes their trunks is the fire that will roughen the rough coating protecting their seeds and, in a few months, create new sequoias.

How do we understand our participation in this? We have used the resilience of the natural world toward our own ends for too long now. Enough already. We must turn and see, we must change our lives or have them changed for us. My wife once said to me, “What’s really burning down is your selfishness.” If only!

What’s real here though is this: catastrophes, whether personal or environmental, are worsened by selfishness and fear. If we set it burning then we can put it out.

Anne Cameron Cutri, “Bride of Christ Save the Planet,” Mixed media painting

Anne Cameron Cutri

I created this multi-paneled painting in response to friends and my mother undergoing cancer treatment. And now my younger sister recently passed from stage 4 pancreatic cancer, she was only 51. To me it is symptomatic to the dis-ease of our global health. Loving someone with this horrible disease, one feels helpless. All I could do is create a visual prayer. I took images of cancer cells and collaged them on the center panel and then painted over them while praying for healing of all who have cancer. On the side panels are legions of choiring angels.

The Bride of Christ is also in reference to Revelation 21:1 — Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” 5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”

Sally Brower, “By Your Altars, O Lord,” Photograph

Sally Brower

One of my favorite bible verses is Psalm 84:3, “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young — a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.” When I discovered the stork nests on the many church towers of Spain and Portugal, I was reminded of this verse. In early Christianity, the stork symbolizes innocence, modesty, kindness and loyalty. In early Catholic understanding, it was associated with the image of the Virgin Mary, no doubt related to its being a symbol of motherly love. Storks fiercely guard their nests, the largest of all birds’ nests. Storks are also a symbol of birth and new life. In the Orient, the stork symbolizes immortality and in ancient Egypt storks were revered as a symbol of the soul. I did not know all that it symbolized when I first encountered the beautiful storks and their nests, but I took photographs of nests in church tower after church tower, and as I approached one, a stork feather dropped down to me, reminding me that my heart always seeks a place beside the Lord’s altar.

Sr. Claire Joy “Reconciliation of a Penitent,” Digital image

Sr. Claire Joy

The rite of Reconciliation takes utter surrender. Not enough to be sorry, although that is important. In the words of the Psalmist: “ I sinned against you alone.” In other words, this is nobody’s fault but mine. For me, the sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the most powerful of all the sacraments. It binds the sinner and the forgiver in a beautiful way, and often both are moved to tears.

 

Jack Pachuta, “Eucharist,” painting

Jack Pachuta

I composed this painting of “The Last Supper” in 2020. I put in a host instead of a loaf of bread and a radiating cup of wine. People asked me which Apostle was Judas. He’s the one in the upper right corner with the fading halo, I said. The gospels say Judas was present for the Passover meal but it’s not clear if he left before the distribution of the Eucharist. Many believe Jesus offered it to him. Many believe his suicide was not despair but a sign of his repentance.

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