Artist Remarks for "Order Out of Chaos"
Thank you to the Basilica and its parishioners for the opportunity to exhibit and share the work. To Johann and Kathy for all of the thoughtfulness that went into the installation and reception. To my family and friends who are such a blessing to me and give me the encouragement and support to keep on creating. And of course thank you Craig, for straightening both my scarf and my head when they get a little askew. If it weren’t for your love, support and attention to detail this wouldn’t be possible….and my mittens would have been lost long ago.
When Kathy called me a year ago asking for an exhibit title, I had just begun describing my process as beginning with “chaos on the canvas”. So, “Order Out of Chaos” seemed an appropriate title. You see, whether I start with a blank canvas or choose to paint over an existing painting (which is my preference), I never start with a plan. I just add layers and layers of paint, line, and form turning the canvas and letting the paint drip and pushing the colors to separate. I listen to music and podcasts. I keep index cards on my easel and write lyrics, thoughts and words as they surface in my mind. It’s a joyful experience making chaos so sometimes I have to stop and dance around the studio a time or two. At some point I begin to see things in the chaos…a face, a boat, a creature I’ve never seen before. I begin to bring order by lifting that image to the surface and simplifying areas of the painting. There comes a point where the story of the painting can be found on the index cards and the title is there as well.
As I began work on new pieces to be included in this exhibit, I found myself pondering the word chaos and its many forms in our world. In the Old Testament, chaos is represented by the sea. In creating the earth, God brought order to the chaos.
Today, with pollution, climate change and over fishing, we have brought chaos to the sea and the creatures that live in and near it, including ourselves.
Some chaos in this world is overwhelming to us like natural disasters and war. In the face of such things all we can do is offer prayer. This is what I’ve done with the painting Leviathan in Chaos. It is my urgent and visual prayer to God that he will help us to love and care for the oceans. At the same time, it is a prayer of gratitude for the amazing creatures he made to frolic in the sea.
While chaos can be overwhelming often we can make a difference through action. Last summer I saw something that lead to the painting, Witnessing the Bride. I arrived here at the Basilica and was parked on the west side of the building. I was early so I decided to sit for a few minutes and enjoy the day. A homeless person came down the street, turned up the walkway and headed up to the Rectory office door. My view of the door was partially obscured by a pillar, but I could see the door open and a small hand reach out with a gleaming, silver tray. On the tray was a bottle of water and a sandwich in a Ziploc bag. The homeless person chatted with the tray holder for a few moments, took the food offering and continued on down the street.
For me, homelessness and the many things that lead to it, are chaos in our world. What I saw was the bride of Christ, the church, serving in love and bringing order to one person’s chaos through food and drink. I am told that this scenario plays itself out multiple times a day at that door.
In a sermon podcast, I heard a powerful story by a local pastor who was raised in a chaotic, abusive home by a stepmother who had a mental illness. As an adult, he had forgiven his stepmother but at times, still struggled the after effects of his difficult childhood.
During prayer about this, he received a healing image from God. He was a child again and Jesus was with him caring for his injury. Then he saw himself as an adult in a field with Jesus. There were rabbits hopping around the field. You see, as a child, he had a fascination with death and would stare at things like dead rabbits. This gave him a sense of power, like he knew a secret no one else knew, we all die. In the vision, Jesus referred to the rabbits saying, “These are my beloved.” Then Jesus looked into the man’s eyes and said, “You are my beloved”.
As I have said, I do not plan my paintings. They rise from the chaos on the canvas of their own accord. I was strongly impacted by this story and rabbits started leaping from the chaos. I tried shooing them out of the studio by painting them on small canvases but they kept multiplying like…well...rabbits.
That's when I realized that sometimes chaos comes in the form of unwelcome, comical rabbits on your canvas as you are trying to create serious paintings for an exhibit at the Basilica.
So I took to arguing with God about this, on my index cards and out loud!
“Come on God! You can’t be serious! Enough with the rabbits already!
Then I heard and felt one of the clearest words from God I have ever received. It was calm and loving but firm. “Don’t judge. Do the work.”
And so, where there are rabbits (3 ptgs here and more in the studio), the rabbits represent the beloved. At times they are us, God’s beloved children. At other times the rabbit is THE Beloved, God’s son. Such is the case in Receive the Blessing, the largest rabbit is Jesus with a big ole rabbit foot firmly planted in our messy, chaotic world.
Are the rabbits important? I have to say yes. I posted the first of the rabbit paintings, The Birth of Spring, on Facebook. I immediately heard from a dear friend who is going through a time of terrible chaos that is affecting her entire family. The situation is extreme in its circumstances and she is understandably overwhelmed and depressed. She said, “This painting makes me happy! It makes me feel good! It’s warm, like a hug. “ On that day, the rabbits were important to both of us.
So, in pondering chaos through the creation of art I have come to this….
Yes, there’s a lot of chaos in our world but we can never under estimate our ability to bring order, even if it’s just for a moment.
We can donate to or volunteer with a cause that touches our heart.
We can say a prayer for the Syrian refugees.
We can hand a granola bar out the car window to God’s beloved with a sign on the corner.
Every act, large or small, brings order out of chaos through love.