2009, Oil on Canvas, triptych, 72in x 120in
I paint to discover, explore, and express my faith. It is a form of gratitude for the gift I have been blessed with and serves as a platform for interacting and sharing my convictions with those who encounter my work. Maturing from a memory of place and personal experience, each piece in this series contributes to a deeper meaning expressing the unified narrative of Scripture. Ambiguous complexity through abstraction and symbolism challenges the viewer to question and reflect on the characters within the narrative. I use color and texture to make each scene come alive and convey the attitude and personality of each character in the biblical narrative. Although the paint and image are able to speak for themselves, I will attempt to lead you along the similar journey I took while creating these pieces by introducing you to each character and uncovering the symbolism behind each brush stroke.
From a birds-eye view, you are able to see three distinct paintings. The triptych represents the three persons of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In order to portray the attributes of each character in the trinity, the first piece symbolizes the Old Testament, the central piece serves as the transition depicting Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and the third piece plays the role of the New Testament.
Compositionally, the first piece illustrates Father God in the Old Testament. The seemingly random strokes create a tone of chaos and energy characterizing the turbulent history of Israel. The overriding attributes of God the Father portrayed in this scene are His wrath for those who disobey Him contrasted with His eternal provision for those who obey Him. The story begins in Genesis 3:1-24 of the Old Testament with the fall of man, depicted in the upper right corner in reference to the tree of life and the lush hues of the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God by falling into the temptation of eating the fruits from the tree of life, God, “placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24). Flames rise up from the bottom, east side of the painting and serve as multiple symbols contributing to the overriding importance of fire in the Old Testament. Fire has a dual purpose, exhibiting both His wrath and His presence. On the one hand fire is seen through the anger of God, as seen in the Garden of Eden, but God also uses it as a means to speak with His people. Next to the flames on the bottom of the painting, is a reference to Mount Sinai when God spoke to Moses in the presence of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2). The mountain lit with fire in my piece is referencing the scene at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:18 when God “descended on it in fire” to speak with Israel.
Illustrating God’s wrath in the Old Testament is water. The blue streaks of paint raining down the entirety of the painting symbolize the great flood and the anger evoked in God by the wickedness of His creation (Exodus 6:5-8). The vast array of colors from the rainbow over the painting is a reminder of God’s promises. The wrath of God in the Old Testament serves to exhibit the importance of having the fear of God. In the light of fearing Him, God instills hope through His promises for those who trust and obey Him.
The climax and fulfillment of God’s promises from the Old Testament are reached in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ depicted in the second canvas of the triptych. The bottom scene exhibits the scene from the Lord’s Supper with Jesus surrounded by his twelve disciples. Each character’s personality and role are highlighted by the intentional choice of the surrounding colors and values. For example, Jesus is illuminated referring to John 8:12 when Jesus spoke to the people, “’I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” In contrast, Judas Iscariot is surrounded by darkness with a glimpse of light representing Jesus’ prediction of his betrayal during the supper. In the scene above, two wine bottles and a bowl rest on a side table. The upright bottle symbolizes Jesus’ first miracle on Earth when he turned water into wine (John 2:11). The bowl or water basin signifies the washing away and cleansing of sin and unrighteousness offered by Jesus (1 John 1:9). During the Last Supper, Jesus physically washed his disciples feet exhibiting his humility and purpose to serve and cleanse (John 13:1-20). The wine that was in the tipped-over bottle symbolizes Christ’s blood that was poured out for the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:27-29). The winding staircase positioned right above the last supper scene consumes a significant portion of the painting because it stands for the pinnacle of Christianity: Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The steps are blood stained with red paint as evidence of Jesus’ death on the cross at Calvary. Next to this resurrection scene, is a swinging door leading into a dark room. The swinging door has no lock or guard; anyone may enter into this illuminated scene from the darkness if one chooses to open it and walk inside. This symbolizes the gift of salvation offered to all through Jesus Christ.
As a result of Jesus Christ, we move on to the third piece signifying God in the New Testament and His new covenant with both Jews and Gentiles. The solid red stroke running down the left side of the painting symbolizes the final blood sacrifice that brought salvation for God’s people. In the Old Testament piece there were three fragments of this red stroke representing atonement. Before Jesus Christ, atonement was only achieved through repetitive sacrifices to God. Jesus served as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world, and we no longer need to offer multiple animal offerings to God. Forgiveness is a gift to those who surrender their lives to God, believe in His Son Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. The three horizontal, red strokes leading up the figure create a ladder. In the Old Testament, the only way to communicate with God was through sacrifices. As a result of Christ’s death and resurrection, we now have a mediator who provides us with the steps to communicate and reach God simply through prayer.
The attributes of God highlighted in this third piece are His majesty, glory, and continued presence. As in the Old Testament, God continues to use fire to speak to his people. In contrast to the flames on top of Mount Sinai, God instills the flames of the Holy Spirit upon those who commit their lives to Him. This is physically seen in Acts 2:2-3 when the Holy Spirit descends on the disciples in the form of tongues of fire at Pentecost and is represented in my painting with the burning flames atop the figure’s head. Below the flames, we enter into a segment of darker, purple and blue hues. In Scripture, purple signifies the majesty of God. Ephesians 2:4 explains that “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” The light raining down from the purple majesty of God symbolizes His grace and mercy raining down on His children. His children are those who receive the gift of salvation and are called to be the salt and light of the world (Matt. 5:13-16).
While the New Testament represents the final piece of the triptych, the journey does not end. Instead it leaves the viewer with the wisdom of an eternal gift of grace, mercy, and forgiveness held out for the taking.