Lent: Melissa Fain-New Creation
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
This is a continuing Lenten exploration of non-religious artists' take on religion.
This is how I’ve suggested one engages these meditations.
What makes this piece different, is it's mine. I finished it yesterday. Today's post will look a little different from the other Lenten posts.
I already knew the creators of religious art was oversaturated with men. I thought I'd go outside the church to find artistic expression and I'd find women. Only secular expression of religious themes are still over saturated with men.
Basically, I wanted to see what women outside the Church thought about Church, as much as I was seeing what men thought, only I was only finding men. Just look back at all the posts so far. Amazing talent. Awe inspiring work. All men.
In my frustration, I picked out one of the artists, and began a feminist critique through art of their work.
About the Art: To really get what I'm doing, it is important to see the related piece. In this case, I chose Aaron Douglas's Creation. I love Douglas' work. It looks simplistic, but the way he uses simple shapes, and range is much much more complex than it appears. His Creation, shows a man looking up at the hand of God. It's a white god, and the stars themselves are white. As the viewer I thought, can he have those stars? Probably not. With these illusions to the flood, the rainbow and Father Abraham, it's a deep piece by an agnostic painter. I recently wrote on his piece titled: Noah's Ark. I picked Douglas for my critique for two reasons.
First, I want you to look this artist up. I want you to see his work. He lived in the 20's. When he's visualizing segregation, slavery and oppression he's doing it as an African American who know it. He deserves more attention from all audiences.
Secondly, my critique of him is the masculinity in all his work. He lived in a time where "man" meant all of humanity. He could stay masculine, and no one would have questioned him. That can't exist today.
About the Artist: If I create something I truly love, I'm usually the most upset by it's creation. I've been doing this for almost a decade. There are backlogs of attempts to put myself out there. There are critiques meant to set something broken back to wholeness. I have been met with an echo. We all have. Some of us think our echoes are validation. Nothing changes if people who already agree with us, choose to agree with us more.
I've been ordained for a dozen years. Like, literally 12 as of Feb 14th. I've worked in churches and religious systems since 99'. Twice as long as I've been ordained. As long as I don't rock boats, or don't take too much power, I'm safe. Well, I was safe. Well, I was never safe. I sealed my fate in high school when I led a group of fellow teenagers to walk out on the (who would eventually be) the General Moderator for the Christian Church, (Disciples of Christ). We walked out right when he began his sermon because he was hired as the senior minister, and didn't get along with the associate who happened to be a woman and the youth director. No one in the church knew, and not involving the church in a decision like that was my big problem. As time progressed, he was the one who owned the narrative, so the story became twisted. The story became that the associate led a coup d'etat to take down the poor senior minister. Only it appears the walk out did absolutely nothing bad to this minister. His hissy fit, throwing down the gauntlet to say it was him or her, got her fired, and hurt the church for a generation. He did gangbusters!
That was my introduction to ministry. This associate was the first time I had seen a woman preach. I saw how she was treated, and I STILL felt called to go into ministry! Getting God's call is not the same as "finding your passion," or "doing what you always wanted to do." A real honest to goodness call will not often get you accolades or high paying jobs. It's taking on things no one wants to support. It's saying things that no one wants to hear. It's preaching to Nineveh.
Notice what is the same: There is a person looking up. There is an olive branch next to the person. There is the hand of god. There are stars the same color as the hand of god. The rainbow is hidden in both. There is water. There are squiggly lines.
Notice what is different: Douglas put the entire piece underwater. At least that's how I see it. The bubbles, and the waves tell me this is after Noah's Ark, but before the water's receded. That also puts the person in the chaos, because the uncreated world was in the oceans. That makes it even more poignant that the olive branch stands next to him.
What's different is the person's gender and color. The man is black. The woman is white. I'm speaking from my context, and only my context. I'm a white woman. I'm not taking on anything that doesn't belong to me. God is white in Douglas's work, while god is a man in mine. Douglas's man is looking up at god. My woman is looking at a star, and wants to touch it.
There is still the illusion to the flood, because Douglas's road was transformed into a creek in mine. I knew I couldn't put bubbles in the sky, so I decided for wind, only my wind became the spirit. Also blue, and completely by accident.
It's filled with so much hope. I want her to get the star. I want the Abrahamic promise to belong to her too! Only, I fear the star will never reach her, or if it does she won't be able to use it.
This painting is the truth, and what the truth holds depends on what we do with it.
How does "New Creation" preach the Word of God to the people of God?