Gethsemane is the critical moment of proof and choice through which all of us, as well Christ, must pass. We are all, in that sense, both refugees and immigrants, making a journey that we have been sent on. For Jesus, it is particularly poignant and dramatic. My painting, which is hard to photograph, displays darkness and shadow, both literally and metaphorically. It represents the abyss of the night of the soul as experienced in the Garden. The clouds of black and brown illustrate the ominous despair Christ feels in the face of his destiny. There is a sense of doom and and turbulence in the movement of the dark swirling shapes. Light appears in some areas, but it is fiery and menacing. The mood is heavy and melancholic, rending. It conveys the intensity of the Passion of Jesus, as well as that of all of us who make our way through individual trials in our earthly passage.
This piece of art is designed as a pondering piece with multiple layers –
The garden is depicted by various ecologies and plants; places where refugees might wander. Within the garden we see Jesus’ words “Watch and Pray”. Layered over the garden are quotes about refugees, impact on their lives, and their hope for the future. As your view the quotes, they move from suffering to thoughts of change and even hope. The question to ponder is where are we in this and what is our response as we “Watch and Pray”?
The artwork depicts the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane after Jesus asked them to “Watch and Pray”. Sleep fell over them and they were not able to watch even for an hour. While they were sleeping Jesus is betrayed and arrested. How watchful and prayerful are we for those at home or those who have lost their home? How long can we watch before selfishness overcomes us and we betray Jesus?
“Out of the Picture”
When Jesus came before the Sanhedrin, they saw what they wanted to see: a usurper challenging their power and threatening change. When we see refugees and immigrants, in person or on TV, who do we see?
When we fail to speak out to protect these people, who are we really denying?
Dance and video artist Sean Hoskins approached his Station by collecting images that spoke to him that he could layer into a dance-for-the-camera composition. Not confined by live performance, Sean layered images of sadness, contrast, repetition, and downright denial/betrayal into this short video.
My painting focuses on the notorious moment of hand washing by Pontius Pilate. The background, colored in black and dark blue, is intended to convey both the idea of water, emotion, and disaster. The huge patches of garnet red represent Christ's blood. And it is on Pontius Pilate's hands as well as all of ours. Pilate is guilty of sentencing Him to die, but so are we all, because He died for all of our sins. Our guilt is universal. For this reason, I have chosen to depict my own hands in this piece. The blood is painted in bold strokes to mark the enormity of Christ's sacrifice and the intensity of our share in the significance of his Passion.
Jesus Christ was himself a refugee from Herod, an immigrant, a rebel, an outsider. He championed the unfortunate and the downtrodden. In Matthew 25:45 He asserted that when we refuse to help them, we are refusing to help Him. In other words, when we allow ill treatment of immigrants and refugees in our society today, we carry collective guilt, and their blood is on our hands in a figurative sense, much as Christ's was on Pilate's. We are betraying the teachings of Jesus.
The teasel is native to Eurasia, probably arriving in North America in imported grain sometime in the 1800’s. It is most often found here along roadsides where the seeds are spread by mowing equipment. It flowers in mid-summer, starting as a thin band about the middle of the comb. As the flowers mature, the band separates, moving upward and downward forming two rings.
As a photographic subject, the teasel has fascinated me with the delicate flowers juxtaposed with the hard spines of the comb. This forms, in my mind, a perfect analogy of Jesus’s love for us against the harshness of his death.
In 1965-66 I became inspired by Africa after living in Liberia on a Ford grant teaching art for a year at Cuttington College. While there one day I went for a walk to visit a nearby Leper colony. Along the path was a woman and a group of children. I took a photograph of them, because it was such a moving and beautiful scene. Most of my art and teaching has been about Africa ever since. A year ago I went through my African photos that I had digitized earlier and decided to make a colorized drawing/painting from a black and white version of my photo. I was inspired by the colors and mesmerizing expressions of the group. Then when the church created the series of artists interpreting the Stations of the Cross, I thought this painting might be fitting. I noticed the feeling of loneliness, isolation and displacement of the figures in the work. The group is separated from society in their own country because of a condition that someone in their family has and they are ostracized there forever. They also have a struggle just surviving. Is the woman the mother of all of them or just a caretaker? There is an empty dish and pot along with distended stomachs from malnutrition. The young boy on the right looks longingly at the empty dish at his feet. They are not refugees but share many things. They are different and therefore ignored, unaccepted, and sometimes chastised.
I wonder what Golgotha really looked like. It was notorious as a city dump where one might find human offal or debris. Not a place where one would desire to go. In my painting, I placed an unseated cross with brilliance to indicate God is Always Here!! As Jesus approached Golgotha, is this what he saw? what he sensed?
“Do Not Weep for Me”
It struck me as I contemplated these verses, Jesus’ compassion for the women of Jerusalem was his concern. Do not weep for me but for yourselves and your children. The refugee women of today weep for themselves and for their children. Do we weep for the refugees? The children are the green wood of our society. Do we weep for them or do we let them fall?
When they came to the place called the skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
Lord, forgive us for rejecting those that are different from us—for separating and segregating immigrants and refugees.
Lord, forgive us for living out of fear and ignorance toward those who believe in different faiths.
Lord, forgive us our self righteous judgements as we cast blame on others and neglect to see the darkness within ourselves.
Lord, forgive us for clinging to hateful divisive thoughts when only love will conquer.
Lord, forgive us for believing we can live without you. We all contain good and evil within us and only through your mercy and grace are we called to our highest and most loving being.
Lord, forgive us when we are confused…when we fail to have clarity that compels us to act in defense of those that are defenseless.
Lord, help us remember your words from Matthew 25:40 “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me.”
Lord, forgive us for not seeing diversity as a strength and our immigrant brothers and sisters as gifts to our communities.
Lord, forgive us.
Dear God, please help us to be more accepting; help us to connect to people who are different from us, especially refugees. May refugees heal from the troubles and terrors they have faced. Help us to be comforters as they walk their journeys. Give them courage and bravery. Give hope to children in refugee camps. We pray for their safety and for safety in the world. Lord help us to pray for their safety and for safety in the world. Lord help us to be good and kind, and more loving towards God’s children.
Jesus, the human one, is a migrant from another place: his kingdom is not of this world. Like the refugees and immigrants who come from outside our known world, Jesus shares our humanity, yet we mark him and them as “other.” That sort of judgment makes his crucifixion possible and allows us to unjustly condemn and harshly punish our unacknowledged sisters and brothers.
All nations are drawn by Jesus into the open arms of this cross. Just as he promises the good thief a welcome in paradise, so he models for us a loving hospitality to all. We, the people, come together as his church in the shape of a cross, forever united by the sacrificial love which is our shared gift.
The mother of Jesus stands under the cross, watching her beloved son suffer, knowing his only release will be in death. And yet, through the pain and torment, Jesus is thinking of her. He expresses concern; not for himself, but for the welfare of his mother.
We think of a mother's never-ending love for her child - be they the Savior, a soldier, a criminal, an immigrant, a "professional", a homeless person, an orphan, a world leader. This gift of love that Jesus gave Mary so tenderly from the cross - in acknowledgement of her ongoing journey as he departed this world - of care and a never-ending reminder of his love for her. The words express love, rage, sadness, hope, and life-time journeys into the unknown with the promise, always, of God.
Love is unconditional, we are all equal members of our human family, mothers and sons can love each other and care for each other even if they are not blood relatives, it really is all about love of all as Jesus taught us.
Jesus commanded one of his disciples to take care of Mary. As Christ’s disciples, we are also called to support people who are suffering from hardship and tragedy, including immigrants and refugees. Images and words were chosen that reflect this idea, which is why they are placed around the cross.
Jesus gives us into the care of one another, creating among us one human family. We are bound together by our shared needs for food, shelter, affirmation, and love.
A parent's bond with their children is one of God's most precious gifts. God's extraordinary love for us is truly expressed through the gift of His son.
Mary sighs as her loss is too deep for words. The pain of losing a child is unfathomable. What depth of pain does God experience?
For the immigrant, for the refugee, loss is a constant companion: Loss of home, loss of one’s way of life, loss of family. Christ knows our pain. With his love we strive towards wholeness. In his love, we are called to reach out to others, to help them towards wholeness and healing.
What have you loved and had to leave behind?
Whom have you taken into your heart and home?
Love Thy Neighbor?
To begin this art project, I looked at Old Master paintings of the crucifixion. I looked in particular at the people in these paintings, gathered on the ground around the cross. What I saw a lot of very sad people, huddled together, many of them wearing hijabs. All these sad people – Jesus’ family and followers – look a lot like the photos of refugees I’ve been seeing almost every day in the newspaper over the past few months. In my version of the crucifixion, I collaged these newspaper photos of refugees around the base of the cross.
Look at these refugees: you can see the anguish and despair in their faces. These are families that have been uprooted and torn apart. They are desperately fleeing violence and hopelessness. They are seeking refuge in a world that is not so eager to take them in. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 28:11). Are we doing a good job of following Jesus’ example?
…and darkness came over the whole land…
In my version of the crucifixion, the sky above the people is dark not because of an eclipse but rather because of heavy clouds. The clouds are made from newspaper articles about the migrant crisis, travel bans, and threats of deportation. These clouds are blocking the refugees’ view of Jesus and his outstretched hands. They cannot see Jesus or the Holy of Holies above Him. They are under too much stress. They cannot see hope.
…Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle….
What was this veil – sometimes called the curtain of the temple – and what was its purpose? It was massive and heavy and it separated us from God, for our own protection, as God is very powerful. What was on the other side of the curtain? The Holy of Holies, God Himself. Who ripped it at the moment of Jesus’ death? God did. He ripped right down the middle, from the top down. What did that signify? It signified that now – through Jesus’ death – we have direct access to God.
I decided to make the veil of the temple out of the same newspaper articles as the clouds – the articles about the migrant crisis, refugee bans, and threats of deportation. You may be asking why would that curtain in the temple be made from these newspaper articles?
At first I thought the curtain should be very beautiful and precious, because it was in the temple. But then I thought about what that curtain’s function is: it separates us from God. And I asked myself, what separates people from God now, in this refugee situation? What separates not only the refugees, but us, the citizens and leaders of the countries that are hesitant to help them out and take them in? I think the answer is fear. That veil is a curtain of fear, our fears of trusting these refugees, our fears of taking them in. Our threats of bans and walls and deportations are separating these people from seeing God and the Good Life and the Holy of Holies. They separate us, too, from seeing God and the Good Life and the Holy of Holies.
In my version of the crucifixion, you see the veil of the temple above the clouds and Jesus. The veil is ripped down the middle, revealing God’s awesome power and intense love. Jesus is welcoming all people with open arms. He loves all of us, the desperate and the secure, the fearful and the hopeful.
The invitation to create an artwork for Lent this year has been a joy and a blessing. Studying, researching, and reflecting about Jesus journey to the tomb, Jesus as refugee, has been deeply meaningful.
I found myself focusing on the journey. I could not separate Jesus journey, from beginning to end, from the path that connected those two facts. I learned that beginning with Jesus road back home after living in the refugee camps of Egypt as a child, that he more than likely walked at least 15,000 miles in his lifetime. Crisscrossing the land by foot, relying on the kindness of strangers, knowing not what he would eat or where he would sleep, his homeland occupied by a military force. Too many modern comparisons. A refugee is someone who is forced to flee, without comfort, with great hardship. Jesus understood the pain along the road to sanctuary.
But that isn’t the whole story.....
About my work:
Spirit has always been an important part of my creativity. I’m an artist because I believe. God is in us, the Ultimate Creator. Creativity is part of who we are.
I grew up in a rural farm family. We didn’t have art or art supplies. But we had abundant materials. My father allowed us to use all of his tools and lumber. All the women in my family were clever with needles; sewing needles, knitting needles, crochet hooks. They made things; quilts completely stitched by hand, clothing for the children, doll clothes, warm hats and mittens. Because I was a creative child and a ‘maker’, and these were the materials that were abundant and accessible to me, I began using cloth, yarn, and thread to create with. And found objects to explore three dimensions.
Over time I began to see the possibilities of using this media for self-expression. Stories began to develop through these materials. I loved the sensual quality of materials, ‘drawing’ with a piece of thread, sculpting with a cord of linen – taking that line of thread and shaping it around space with the simple techniques I learned from childhood. Realizing the potential and meaning inherent within all objects.
I see abundant connections – between stories, thread, our teachers and ancient skills – all connected with a simple piece of fabric, thread, wire. My work is inspired by Spirit, the natural world, the landscape of memory and my personal experience.