Friday, September 2, 2016

Peace on the Edge

"Fridur" (Peace), is this year's ArtPrize entry by Edward Riojas.

Copyright © Edward Riojas

“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

Never was there such a fallacy; never was there such heresy wrapped up in so much warmth and fuzziness. As impressionable youth, we sang it while swaying, arm in arm, around campfires after the spiritless Kumbaya left us wanting. Perhaps we didn’t yet realize that the only thing that begins with me is discord and strife and war.

Though we fret over it and yearn for it, we will never have the absence of war this side of Paradise. Christ prophesied that there would be wars and rumors of wars when the end was near. What we often fail to realize is that the end – compared to eternity – has always been near.

Peace, indeed, is an elusive thing. Perhaps that is why I chose “Peace” as a theme for this year’s entry for ArtPrize.

At first blush, my painting, “Fridur,” is about anything but peace. Visiting another theme from recent years, this painting again uses trolls. They aren’t quite as folkloric as in entries of years past; they are nasty, quarrelsome and itching for a fight. The trolls are a thinly-veiled metaphor for humankind. “Why can’t we all get along” is not in their repertoire.

A major focal point in the composition has nothing to do with any of the figures – it is a single crocus poking out of the snow. That flower is a metaphor for earthly peace. It is fragile. It is fleeting, and it will surely die. The opposing powers stop to consider this delicate symbol of hope.

Thankfully, there is a different peace than what this world has to offer, and that is where “Fridur” – the Icelandic word for “Peace” – turns on its edge. Framing the painting and embracing it is an ancient prayer of the Church, dating from as early as the 5th century and translated into Icelandic:

“O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed: Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee, we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.”

The God-given wisdom of ancient Church fathers is evident in this “Collect for Peace.” It doesn’t hope in anything this world has to offer; it doesn’t hope in mutual understanding between peoples; it doesn’t hope in ‘peace beginning with me.’ It DOES hope in a much different kind of Peace – one which the world cannot give – and that is the Peace that passes all human understanding; the Peace of obtaining heaven already through the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior; the Peace no army can conquer.

May this peace – the one that began with Him – be ours.

ArtPrize 2016 opens Sept. 21 and runs through Oct. 9. This year, 1,453 entries will be hosted at 171 venues in and near downtown Grand Rapids, Mich. It boasts a prize purse of more than $500,000 decided by popular vote and jurors. Riojas's "Fridur" will be hosted by Fifth Third Bank/Warner Norcross & Judd LLP, 111 Lyon St. NW. The voting number for "Fridur" is 62683. Voting may be done online at, but registration must first be done in person at designated ArtPrize sites in Grand Rapids.

To order giclee prints of "Fridur," please go to for more information, or contact the artist at

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