Desert Metaphors: Going Deeper
"Ancient Prophecies," 14 x 19 original watercolor, unframed. Part of my Desert Metaphors series.
A couple of years ago my husband and I were guests on a television talk show, "Come Follow Up." In a pre-show conversation, one of the hosts asked me about my artwork, which is mostly landscapes and figures, and asked, "Do you ever do any religious art?" My answer: "They're all religious."
This is a fairly frequent question I get from collectors, and to be honest, my answer varies. But I assure you, they are all religious. People are usually surprised to hear this, as it’s not always obvious at first. There are at least three levels of spirituality in my works, three ways they are extensions of my faith, and build faith in others.
One of course is overtly religious subject matter, including books, illustrations, paintings of temples and other religious symbols and structures.
More often I make paintings in which there is nothing overtly religious, but the title gives a clue as to my presence of mind, and the thoughts and experiences that inspired them. These paintings are filled with rich meaning. I have a Desert Metaphors series, which at first glance is just a set of desert landscapes—lots of sagebrush and red rocks—yet, if you read the titles, each painting is symbolic of Holy Week, from palm fronds to drops of blood to a stone rolled away. Planning for this series — a few days in the wilderness — was one of my most deeply spiritual experiences, as I suddenly saw symbols of the Savior everywhere, surrounding me, in a desert not unlike the one where Jesus walked.
A couple of years ago I created a week's worth of Desert Metaphors paintings for Holy Week. I posted them daily on instagram, and sent out a daily email with longer descriptions and larger images. This year I felt inspired to do something similar. I created seven entirely new paintings, each symbolic of some aspect of the atonement. I posted these with very brief descriptions on social media, and am including them as a complete set here. (If you would like to see all of these Desert Metaphors paintings, along with their descriptions, including those from previous years, click here.)
"Living Water," "Lenten Roses," and "Crown of Thorns 2" from my Desert Metaphors series.
"And With His Stripes," "He Went into a Garden to Pray," and "Springing up into Eternal Life," from my Desert Metaphors series.
In many ways, plein air painting — painting outdoors, in nature — provides my most direct connection to the divine. Being in nature is serene and healing. It is like God allowing us to create in His own studio. Many times I cannot contain the bliss I feel as I stand there in awe of the beauty, and at the same time in deep humility, as I attempt to capture and imitate His works. Painting in this way is absolutely worshipful. Often my heart cries out in gratitude and praise.
Question: What activity connects you to your Creator? In what ways do you attempt to express the inexpressible? In what ways are you rewarded for those efforts?
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I am an artist and art instructor working in water media. Just knowing I can watch colors run together makes it worth getting out of bed every morning! Helping students capture the same excitement is equally rewarding.