Before dawn, in the crisp cold air of an old house still thinking about firing up the furnace, I creep past sleeping lumps of my children and up the stairs. My friend and I smile greetings, unwilling to disturb with unnecessary words a quiet that feels somehow reverent. Large cups of coffee cradled in eager chilled hands, we settle in wicker chairs under blankets in her intimate enclosed porch. Another friend steps lightly through the darkened house to join us.
Candle lit. Leaves rustle outside the window. We open the Book and read aloud three times with meditation between readings. Lectio Divina, an ancient Benedictine practice of Scripture contemplation, ushers us into the sacred space of Job 42:1-6. My spirit explodes with the wonder of an invitation: to “see” the God of whom I hear.
The phrases tangle in my heart for weeks, months. I attempt a visual image. The repetition of carved words, cut into linoleum blocks, “heard of you” represents the rote practice of religion. “See you,” handwritten, represents the unique, unscripted experience of breaking into the essence of a Being, the journey from knowing about God to knowing God. But I am frustrated with the image – the colors, the graphic impact leaves me disappointed. I set it aside. The ideas continue to incubate.
A year later, I attempt a lesson for an on-line class (Layers of Love by Alisa Burke) – playing with just one color and black and white (with a little liberty.) I am surprised when the orange declares that it wants to become something besides an exercise in color. It wants to form into the idea set aside months before. The words “See You” emerge. I grab the linocut of “heard of you” from my first attempt, and stamp it on the left. Black paint corrals energy in and around emerging words. I incorporate a Xerox of the sacred text. It becomes leaves of light, sprouting from the point of encounter, the space where what was heard about becomes what is seen. Moving through the rendezvous, the soul exchanges subtle interplays, shadows of experience for rich color and pattern: a new way of being, born of new seeing.
I find when I am finished that it speaks to me of that sacred early morning invitation that launched a season of longing and of answered longing – to see what I have heard about.
I want to explore the image further, larger. My study for “See You” (written about a few weeks ago in my blog entry: To Know God or to Know About God) measures 15” x 11”. I paint first washes on a larger piece of paper – 22” x 30”. Retaining the original color scheme, I add in purple and blue undertones for depth beyond the point of “seeing.” In the larger scale, there is more room for intimate moments harnessed into the whole. Points of exploration and discovery, repetition and vitality.
In the creation of the piece, I stumble into questions that plague my artistic journey at the moment – unleashing energy and passion that bring a piece to life, while honoring detail and intentionality that organize it into a whole. The tension of discipline and abandon. Perhaps an appropriate struggle for a work on the spiritual theme of hearing and seeing.
In the end, I pray that this piece might be an invitation for those who view it to both strive and to surrender, and in so doing, to “see” the One of whom you have heard.