Friday, July 15, 2022

Clarity Comes into the Picture

 Copyright © Edward Riojas

Rarely do I show photos of a piece before it is finished or delivered to the client — that includes small detail photos. When the exception is made, there is good reason for it. In this case, advice from past instructors made me reconsider what exactly it is that I am doing in a set of paintings destined for All Saints Lutheran Church, Charlotte, NC.

"Don't pull any punches," is a decades-old quip from a writing instructor. That one has always been easy. Those of you who really know me know that I don't do "subtle" very well. My artistic lines are clear and my colors are saturated. My reds are punchy. Some have even accused me of using child-like colors — whatever that means.

When creating the illusion of space, my art instructor would often tell us to make the foreground objects so clear that they would "poke you in the eye." As I was working on this current piece, that same sentiment paraphrased itself into, 'Make it so clear that you might trip over it." And that is precisely where Holy Scripture gave me a good slap.

Detail of the commissioned piece.
Copyright © Edward Riojas

You see, I was working on one of two paintings for the church, and the painted shapes on which I was working are identical in size and shape, and appear in the same place — about shin high — in each of the two paintings. The left-hand panel is of the Holy Nativity, while the right-hand panel is of the Resurrection.

The two shapes are very block-like and, had they existed outside of their two-dimensional constraints, it is true that one would be careful to walk near them for fear of tripping. They are stumbling blocks.

In the left-hand painting, a stone manger rests firmly in the foreground. In the Nativity, God became incarnate; there, He dwelt with us. But "the sign" given by the angels was a decidedly morbid one. The swaddling cloths and the manger pointed forward to an embalmed body in a sarcophagus, an all-too-soon burial, and a dead God.

In the right-hand painting, an empty ossuary serves as a footrest for the resurrected Christ. The God-Man was dead, but is never to be dead again. Without having a corrupted body, there was never a point to using an ossuary for His skeletal remains. With the Jews arguing amongst themselves over the possibility of a Resurrection, it is no wonder such blocks caused — and still cause — men to stumble. Neither is it any wonder that the philosophies of man still look at the same as utter foolishness.

It is, however, a blessing to the Children of God when the hidden reality of the Word becomes crystal clear and pokes us in the eye. It doesn't matter that we cannot logically wrap our heads around it, and it doesn't matter if it doesn't fall in line with centuries of man-made traditions. The beauty of Holy Scripture is that it forces us to admit that, in our fallen state, we are weak and vulnerable and in desperate need of a Savior. Holy Scripture pulls no punches.

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