Friday, August 7, 2020

Works in Progress

Copyright © Edward Riojas

In spite of what’s been going on in the world and in spite of little ‘hiccups’ with family matters, I am still very much at work. The Lord has blessed me with a mountain of work, along with projects that continually materialize.

A quick glance at my “tote board” may give the impression that I’m way over my head where work is concerned, but I am well accustomed to dealing with slow-moving church councils and the occasional project that temporarily gets shelved. Several projects are waiting for congregational approval, so my attention has switched to other projects.

I’m currently finishing up a book project and I’m starting to tinker with a second. Behind that are perhaps three other book projects. If those aren’t enough, some folks are kind enough to urge and nudge and poke me to resurrect a book project of my own on Christian symbolism.

I am still doing design work for Ecclesiastical Sewing. The most recent projects have been interesting, including the replication of a mesoamerican motif.

While all those things are cooking on various burners, I’m also taking time to work on an non-commissioned piece that had been swimming around in my head and is only now coming to fruition. This project, however, is a creative dessert – a lot of other things must necessarily be cleared off my plate before I can fully enjoy it. I’m not quite ready to give sneak peeks just yet, but I will say that both I – and it – will get carried away.

And now that you’ve heard it, it’s time for me to get back to work on the mountain.





Friday, July 31, 2020

The Artist And Other Vocations

Copyright © Edward Riojas

Some may have noticed that my posts have become a bit irregular. Normally, I'm a creature of habit and follow a rather ordered life. But life is not always ordered.

I am still certainly creating sacred art and I am still hammering away at the mountain of work before me. I have, however, other vocations. One of them is that of son.

I looked through my handbook of life and could not find anywhere the chapter on cancer and aging mothers. I suspect, though, that I will be able to write a detailed chapter on the subject when all is said and done.

My mother was in a select group of society who were not dealt a good hand when all gathered at a table to play this game of pandemic. Contrary to what our governor declared, we were NOT all in this together. Those who were just short of diagnosis had to wait. Those who were in the middle of treatment had to wait. Only those relative few with a virus were given preferential treatment. But cancer doesn't care. Or wait.

Now I am in the midst of finally helping my Mom through the seemingly countless hoops that come before radiation therapy can begin. My job; my vocation as son is to give her support. My vocation now is to give her smiles when I am hurting inside. My job is to get her to appointments that must first give her pain before she has a chance to feel better. My job is to be the rock that my late father would have been. My job sucks, but it is MY job, and I will do it to the best of my ability. This is what the Good Lord is calling me to do.

So please forgive me if my other vocation of sacred artist is not always in the front seat; forgive me if the posts are infrequent or are not so "happy-clappy;" forgive me if it seems I am being lazy. Please pray that I faithfully perform my vocations - all of them - to the best of my ability.

Friday, July 17, 2020

“Ode to the Age of Innocence”

Copyright © Edward Riojas

Among the many casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic was the cancellation of ArtPrize 2020. Just when artists had gotten used to the every-other-year format and had ignored the inconsequential in-between event, a dumb virus unleashed wholesale paranoia on just about every county fair, concert, and festival in the land. The event which drew hundreds of thousands of visitors to sidewalks and venues was doomed months before its mid-September start date. Social distancing simply could not handle those kinds of numbers.

To be fair, babysitting my piece for days on end was a sure way to come down with some kind of illness. It sometimes seemed as if I inherited the flue, cholera, typhus, and schistosomiasis all at once. Visitors like to get up close and personal with art and artists, and handshakes come with the territory. So do germs.

"Ode to the Age of Innocence."
Edward Riojas. 2020. Oil on panel.
Unfortunately, some of us artists put considerable time into our pieces, and this year was no exception. Finished pieces might be accepted in a future ArtPrize, but careful wording of the cancellation announcement gave no such certainty. Hence, I feel obliged to give a digital unveiling of my entry, “Ode to the Age of Innocence.”

This piece, of course, comes from a very different facet of my work than what some are normally accustomed. It is not a sacred piece, and it is not quite illustration. This is the fourth large installment of a ‘troll’ painting.

Like my other paintings of the same genre, it is intentionally vague, while avoiding hidden agendas, allegory, and double entendres. It is unassuming. If the viewer can suspend every urge to place meaning where there is none [including nonsensical ‘White entitlement’], then the tableau opens with child-like wonderment. Even the puzzled trolls are disarming. The figures give a vague nod to the children’s book illustrations of Scandinavia, and one senses a story, but the real intent is simple to enjoy a view through a child’s eye and hearken to former days when things were more simple. And simply imaginative.

Neither I, nor anyone else could foresee the events that would transpire the past months. The fact that our senses have been assaulted on several fronts makes this piece more refreshing than it might normally be. This is where the fine arts have massive power to transport us.

‘Ode’ not only suggests a place and time in our imaginative memory, but it also draws on associated feelings. Perhaps the viewer will smile. Perhaps the viewer will think of something from a different, but pleasant, context. The greatest achievement artists can accomplish is tricking the viewer into forgetting, if only for a moment, the problems of this sorry world, and confront instead a complex illusion made with bits of paint on a flat surface.

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Giclée prints of cover art, “Ode to the Age of Innocence,” are available from the artist. Prints are signed, and domestic shipping is included for U.S. residents. Sizes/Prices for prints:
20.5” x 36” / $160
17” x 30” / $130
13.6” x 24” / $100
10.25” x 18” / $80
To order, or for more information about this print or any other that I offer, please e-mail me at edriojasartist@gmail.com




Friday, July 10, 2020

“The Axe Is Laid”


Copyright © Edward Riojas

Some of us grew up having school teachers who gave subtle hints that we shouldn’t trifle with them. You know who they were. Those particular teachers didn’t necessarily incessantly yell or haul students by the ear out of the classroom and into the scholastic netherworld or burden students with punitive tasks. Those teachers simply made sure a yard stick was visible for all to see. Perhaps they would conspicuously place it on the chalkboard’s bottom rail [even though measuring was rarely needed]. Maybe they gently laid it on their desk at the start of the day. We all knew what its presence meant, and most, if not all, students strove to keep that yardstick in its place.

A while back I was asked by Rev. Michael Holmen to create cover art for a newly released book, “The Hardening of Israel’s Heart & The Hardening of Heart in the Church.” Holmen edited the volume, which was written by Rev. Paul Hensel and translated by Floyd Brand.

Several visual concepts were fused into one simple image for the cover art, but the theme lays heavily on the scathing words of John the Forerunner:
“But when [John] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”” (Matthew 3:7-10)

Because the thrust of the book is on hardening, however, I pushed John’s visual a bit further in time. While the axe is an inanimate object, the tree begins to throw itself to the wind. Without taking in nourishment from the ground, its foliage scatters; its limbs bleach; its life wanes. This is a tree that has ignored the axe. This is a tree that strives to be something it is not. The tree’s future is foreshadowed as dropping leaves reveal a not-so-subtle skull of death.

While we may chastise, with 20/20 theological hindsight, the hardened, foolish Israelites or the wayward early Church, John’s warning is certainly for us also. We simply cannot live on our own without the life-giving waters that flow from our Savior’s side. We dare not attempt to ignore the Gospel in preference of our own supposed goodness. Our limbs will surely fail when we lift them up to the ugly persuits of man instead of the glory of our Lord. To that end, it is wise to listen carefully to the Forerunner’s admonition; to see in our mind’s eye that yardstick gently laid for all to see. The sharpened axe is indeed laid at the root of the tree.
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Giclée prints of cover art, “The Axe is Laid at the Root of the Tree,” are available from the artist. Prints are signed, and domestic shipping is included for U.S. residents. Sizes/Prices for prints:
21” x 30” / $150
17” x 24” / $120
12.7” x 18” / $80
To order, or for more information about this print or any other that I offer, please e-mail me at edriojasartist@gmail.com




Friday, June 26, 2020

Things that [Ultimately] Matter

"Christ Icon."
Sizes/prices of giclée prints
can be found at edriojasartist.com

Copyright © Edward Riojas

Now is the time. If you have ever considered hanging an image of Jesus on the wall of your home, then now is the time. If you have ever thought of using memorial funds to place an image of our Savior in the sanctuary of your church, then certainly now is the time.

A few insistent voices have been urging the wholesale removal of monuments, and it doesn’t seem to matter if those monuments are in opposition to activists’ views or if they actually support the same activists’ cause – they must all come down. Ignorance is more contagious than any virus ever was, and stupidly spreads more rapidly than any pandemic ever could.

Most recently, the targets are ‘images of white supremacy’ – Jesus. This idea is at the urging of BLM activist, Shaun King. King must surely be a conflicted man, because his own mother is white. But I digress.

Iconoclasm – the destruction of icons, or images, of Christ – is as old as the hills. Long before anything seemed to matter, man has fought over whether or not it is right to have images of Jesus; whether or not it is blasphemous. More blood has been shed over images of Christ than even this sorry generation can possibly imagine. Historically, it’s been that bad.

Lutherans, however, are a feisty group. Whether it’s that inbred German stubbornness or cues taken from the blessed Reformer, Martin Luther, we have a tendency to show our mettle when things look dire.
"Crucifixion"
Sizes/prices of giclée prints can be
found at edriojasartist.com

When some insisted that it was NOT the body of Christ on the altar; when they “broke” the Host in full view to represent their theological position, Lutherans suddenly became discreet in that simple act, if only to protest the Protestants’ errant ways. When some insisted that only red wine could be used in the Sacrament of the Altar, many Lutherans instantly switched to white wine. Some churches still use that variety, exclusively. When Protestants started destroying ‘idolatrous’ sanctuary artwork, Luther blew a gasket and lambasted the moronic imbeciles.

It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that this Lutheran artist strongly suggests we up the ante and increase our display of the Only Begotten of the Father. We do not do so to increase His presence among us, for He will be where He promises. We do not do so to show our piety or supremacy in any way, for we openly acknowledge, with Paul, that we are chief among sinners and we are slaves to the Gospel. We place images of Christ Jesus simply to remind ourselves – and the whole world – that some things really DO matter.





Friday, June 19, 2020

Healing and Forgiveness

Copyright © Edward Riojas

Copyright © Edward Riojas

It’s no surprise that I have mouths on my mind. My mother was recently diagnosed with stage 3 or 4 cancer of the tongue. Also recently, one of the lectionary readings was from Isaiah 6, which describes a burning coal touching the prophet’s mouth after he had declared in verse 5, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

This passage was the basis for one of several proposed drawings for Higher Things. That was before the theme was massaged a bit, rendering the image unusable. In the drawing, a cross, stylized crossed keys, and a burning coal are fused together. It’s a strange image that, to my knowledge, has rarely – if ever – been done, and this time it only got as far as a rough drawing.

Isaiah’s account, although strange, prophetically points to something more familiar – Holy Communion. One can see the parallel between taking the burning coal from the altar and touching the prophet’s mouth, and taking the Body and Blood of Christ from the altar and placing it in the communicant’s mouth. We also echo Isaiah’s words, “...my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!,” when we repeat Simeon's “...for my eyes have seen Thy Salvation...”

During the pandemic stay-at-home order, my mother languished in her home, as medical appointment after medical appointment was postponed. The oral surgeon would have to wait. She also was not able for two and a half months to go to church. The cancer did not care.

Finally, she was able to see an oral surgeon, and finally she was able to receive Holy Communion, which drives me to a different part of Scripture. In Mark 2:9, the event of Jesus healing the paralytic comes to a head when the Savior asks, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?” Pondering my mother’s condition, I want the cure for her bodily suffering. We are told to bring everything to the Lord, including petitions for those in need, so I ask the Lord as a beggar would.

Yet there is more at stake than these inherited, rotting bodies. For that reason, there is great joy knowing that my Mom finally received forgiveness at the Lord’s Table. What is more, she received that forgiveness, of all places, on her tongue.




Friday, June 5, 2020

“But Watch Lest Foes With Base Alloy”

What I on earth have done and taught,
Guide all your life and teaching;
So shall the kingdom’s work be wrought
And honored in your preaching.
But watch lest foes with base alloy
The heav’nly treasure should destroy;
This final word I leave you.

Copyright © Edward Riojas

This illustration for Martin Luther’s final verse of “Dear Christians, One And All Rejoice” (Kloria Publishing), is a counterpart to the book’s cover illustration. There is greater meaning beneath the two pretty pictures, but because of the times, we are forced to understand it more keenly.

There is no social distancing among those who approach the Lord’s Table. More importantly, there is no social distancing between the Lord Himself and those of His flock. He is not concealed by a mask, and we, because of Christ’s sacrifice, fear neither sickness nor death as we approach Him.

Hence, we bow as the crucifix processes past us. In some traditions, we bow as the Gospel – or, more properly, the Word – passes. Hence, we bow at the altar, acknowledging the very body and blood of the Lord Himself. While human reason cannot grasp this truth, we take our Lord at His Word.

Here, the words of Luther’s stanza drive home. The Reformer’s thinly-veiled warning does not directly regard Satan, but rather a more subtle foe. By context, most of us get the gist of the phrase “foes with base alloy,” but Luther paints a picture, through metallurgical terms, of those who may be counted among the  Believers, but whose beliefs are tainted by questionable and impure doctrine; those who wonder why we can’t ALL kneel at the Lord’s Table; those who ask, in eerily-familiar style, “Did He REALLY mean “This is my body?””

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Giclée prints of images from ‘Dear Christians’ are available for purchase in two formats. To order or for more information, please e-mail me at edriojasartist@gmail.com.


Sizes/prices for giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Eucharist Spread:”
30” x 19” / $140
24” x 15.2” / $110
16” x 10.1” / $75




Sizes/prices for giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Eucharist Vertical:”
18.8” x 24” / $120
12.5” x 16” / $75

“Dear Christians, One And All Rejoice,” (Kloria Publishing) is available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.com