A Thanksgiving Day Post
I am so thankful for Walter and Cathy! They discovered my work at New Charlotte Church and looked me up at my Asheville studio. On August 6th they were ready to commission a painting of suitable elegance for the dining room of their new home — a painting that would be meaningful to them as they shared dinner with their guests.
Especially important to Walter were the lyrics of his favorite Bob Bennett song called “Come and See,” and important to Cathy were the words from Psalm 34 : 8 — “Taste and See,” incorporating Hebrew text to reflect her Jewish heritage. Both Walter’s song and Cathy’s scripture included the important word SEE.
Cathy sent me her dining room colors and fixtures and furniture. The dimensions were to be 48″ x 60″ to fit over her 80″ credenza which she described with designer detail, the base aluminum with a silver metal leaf finish and the top American white oak in an ivory ceruse finish.
Colors would play a part in the choices I would make to create an artwork fitting for them, but the words that inspired them would be crucial for my interpretation and creation of this painting. They would reflect The Word.
The lyrics of Bob Bennett’s song read:
Come and see, come and see,
Come and see a Man from Heaven.
Come and see, hear Him speak,
He has seen the face of God
Come and see, come and see
This Jesus of Nazareth
Come and see the One that we Have heard of all our lives.
A voice crying in the wilderness
A voice from the sky loud and clear
A still, small voice deep inside
And a voice still ringing in my ear … saying Follow Me,
Follow Me And I will show you My Father
Follow Me and you will see The Heavens opened wide
Come and see, come and see
Come and see this Man from Heaven
Oh, could it be?
Could it be We will see the face of God?
And especially fitting for a dining room, the verse “Taste and See the goodness of the Lord; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34 : 8).
Walter requested that I include a figure in the painting. After all . . . this man
from heaven is real. This man from heaven speaks. He is calling, “Come! Follow me!”
This excited me because that is what my work is all about — The Incarnation which means to “take on flesh.” This man from heaven became a person to bring together heaven and earth. And He is the God who gives “eyes to see” who He is, a spiritual reality.
When I told Walter and Cathy that I had three 24″ x 48″ canvas panels already available, they decided that a 72″ triptych would work even better with the central panel purposefully reserved for Christ, the God/man, inviting guests to celebrate the feast.
I reminded them of my “gift of gold” and told them that I would gild the center panel gold and the two side panels silver. (I use composition gold and aluminum leaf for this base layer since it will be painted over with oil and wax. Silver tarnishes to black whereas aluminum leaf will not tarnish.) I allowed some of the red bole adhesive color to show through intentionally as a symbol for the sovereign control of the God who sees and knows all. (I explain this more fully in my “Nets of God Series” informed by the poem, Banding, which compares banding birds to God who knows us intimately.)
The clients had both silver and gold accents in their room so this silver/gold triptych would work well. Although the process of applying gold leaf squares is tedious, I enjoyed the process and imperfection that happened when the feather-light leaf floated down to adhere to the rabbit skin glue and water (water gilding). It often missed the mark, but this allowed the ground color to peek through. These purposeful lines symbolize the “nets of God.” The grid they make undergirds this painting.
I began by applying the dark oil paint and wax in a cross shape unifying the three panels. Dark is integral to the violence of the cross. I also needed the dark because I wanted to “pull out” the shape of the silver hands. The tool I use is a dough scraper. I can apply the oil and wax mixture with it, as well as remove while the paint is still wet. The size and flexibility of this tool allows for a suggested images and abstraction rather that a perfectly described image. By removing the top layer of wax and oil I exposed the leaf beneath it.
This photo also shows the underlying grid lines or “nets of God’s sovereign love.” Here both hands have been formed revealing the silver beneath them.
While the paint was wet, I removed it to write the Hebrew text, Taste and See at the top of the panels and the foundational word SEE at bottom center. I purposefully left the center gold. It would be the focal point — this man from heaven who opened heaven’s door and showed us the Father.
But how to paint God’s glory — this God who lives in unapproachable light. I would have to leave the center golden if it had not been for the Incarnation! But Jesus became a man and entered into our darkness. He came as a sacrifice wearing a crown of thorns.
(This photo was taken before I added the 23K gold leaf to symbolize the heavens open above Jesus’ head.) Under the figures is another small figure in the word SEE. If you look closely you will also “see” the words of the song Come and See.
Jesus bent to love. The Hebrew word hesed describes this love. It means everlasting love that is humble, sacrificial, and bending. That is why I painted his crown of thorns prominently rather than his face. His name Yeshua, which is above all names, is written in the center of the thorns.
This bending love allows us to take refuge beneath his everlasting arms. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
His hands are no longer on the cross but in front of the cross. They reach out. The hand on the left carries our sorrows. Silver tears fall through his hand, as the olive leaf of peace rises heavenward. This hand also symbolizes the washing of the
The hand on the right side seems to be creating eyes to see. (Look closely and you will find many eyes in this painting. Unexpectedly, Aslan also showed up! )
This silver hand (or is it two hands together?) is in motion. It is ethereal and holds a feather which symbolizes the Holy Spirit — also one of the persons of the Godhead.
This man from heaven is bending down to give sight to a figure below him. The gold is streaming across her eyes and the outstretched hands could also be her hands. They are lifted in praise! Jesus has whispered, Come and see the One that we Have heard of all our lives! He gives “eyes to see!” And He covers or gives refuge to this figure who rejoices beneath his wings, as Psalm 34 : 8 says, “blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”
Yes, he bends down to die so we can live. He has opened wide the door of heaven (you will see The Heavens opened wide) depicted by the gold light above him. The crown of thorns, this offensive bloody crown, is now a glorious symbol of life. By dying and suffering, he has given everlasting life. That is the goodness of God.
Taste Him and see His goodness — this God who is called the Bread of Life. We taste him by feasting on his Word. Jesus is called The Word of God. This is such rich food and gives life everlasting. He is wearing a white robe of righteousness and we are covered!
Today we give thanksgiving for Jesus, the God who is one with the Father, who came from heaven to shows us the Father! And who gives us eyes to see him!