Friday, September 22, 2017

A Profound Thread in Sacred Art

Copyright © Edward Riojas

Being a commissioned, sacred artist, I am sometimes privy to things otherwise hidden. No, I’m not talking about things mystical, or of private revelations, or voices. I am talking about the back stories of commissions – things sometimes intentionally covered, left undisclosed, or otherwise minimized.

I realize I am sounding mysterious and nebulous, but I am bound to uphold anonymity where it is requested. What I CAN tell the reader is that there is a profound thread that runs through those back stories – one that only becomes visible with experience. For lack of better words, it is a bicolored thread of brokenness and Hope so entwined that it defies unravelling.

The rare commissions are ones that are solely born out of generosity. More often, works of art come to life by the memory of a life cut short, through some deep hurt, or the soiled veil covering this side of heaven. Sometimes, those imperfections are memorialized in the piece itself.

Putting aside images of the crucified and risen Christ, there is one theme that is requested most often – the procession of saints. This is usually, but not always, included in the adoration of The Lamb.

As is typical of our skewed view of classical artwork, we often take these processions of saints the wrong way. Whether because of the richness of dress in which they were portrayed or in the masterful manner in which they were painted, we see them as a crowd of churchly movers and shakers; men and women of high standing; noble lords and ladies of whom we may only deign to aspire. This is not so.

As was depicted in former days is the same now – these are random samplings of whitewashed nobility; the broken; the hurting; those desirous and eager for the return of our Faithful Redeemer. In these processions, we see ourselves and others who share our burdens and faults and sinfulness. We see ourselves in the throng of those whose Hope echoes the desperate question of the disciple, “Lord, to whom shall we go?!”

In every case the Death and Resurrection of our Lord outshines these shadows of multifaceted brokenness with a singular Hope. Without such there would be no point in me completing such commissions. And there would be little to note in the example of a mural realized after the death of its visionary, the example of a Down Syndrome child weekly pondering an image of Jesus surrounded by children, the example of the blind funding an image of the resurrected Christ.

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