Love Illuminated

paraments for prince of peace lutheran church, springfield va

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Infinite Love (blue)

This work was begun in the summer of 2006 and completed for Christmas 2009. The central request was for work that would complement the interior of the worship space and also stretch the congregation’s vision for its ministry. The theme evolved through conversation with representatives of the congregation, study of worship materials and scripture, and an exploration of symbols and materials.

Quilt cottons were the primary fabric, although linen was used in the purple set. The white set is silk, except for some of the sheers. Piecing, applique, and couching are techniques used throughout this series. Sheer overlay, knotting, and bead embellishment are used in several pieces.

The theme of the perpetual giving and receiving of love came from studying the scriptures for Advent and songs that resonated within me, including Catherine Cameron’s God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens and I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For by U2. The swirl of the background creates a sense of movement and order. The puffs of ribbon and yarn suggest bursts of energy, punctuating that movement. The intentional spread of motifs across the three major pieces suggests the yearning for a promise, not yet fully realized. We pray “Come, Lord Jesus.” And wait with hope and expectation.

Steadfast Love (purple)

The theme for the Lenten set is fragmentation and journey. We feel our separateness from God and from each other. We seek God and community through a journey, which is at times difficult and dangerous. The texts that focused this work are the African American spiritual I Want Jesus to Walk With Me and the Gospel Acclamation for Lent, “Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”

Shape and numbers were predominant in this design. All sections are angular, defined by either squared corners or diagonal lines. The use of both symmetrical and asymmetrical balance creates a tension. The altar frontal is composed of 7 sections, for the seven weeks of Lent. There are 40 squares on the pulpit frontal for the days of Lent. Ragged edges on woven strips and the singular small squares, along with couched knotted cords, suggested the hardship of the desert time. The lighter purple linen and the selective use of rose colored cotton, lightens the work, reminding us that the journey is toward light.

Expansive Love (green)

The concept was to take simple fabric, simple colors, simple shapes and create a complex variety to give visual interest through the long seasons of illumination and growth. The whole set cannot be viewed at one time because of the reversible nature of the wider runners.

Three themes are used in the images for this set: the trinity, vine and branches, and the dual kingdoms, earthly and heavenly. The trinity is represented by intersecting circles on stoles and the pulpit frontal. It is also symbolized by the river (creator), sun (savior), and fire (spirit). The symbols were rendered in the three primary colors to further the imagery. The people appear woven together as branches of a grape vine, strong and fruitful. This image is used in the smaller altar runners and on the stoles.

Also on the stole is a cross / sword, reminding us of Christ’s work on this earth and in the heavenly realm. The pulpit frontal and the back of the stoles bear the entwined circles on a base of seven trumpet bells. The church of the triune God is working towards the time of triumph and victory. The earthly church comes to us through the sacraments, represented on the reverse of the large altar runners. Wheat grain and grapes are familiar signs of the bread and wine of holy communion. The three drops of water echo our baptism.

Basic shapes also create the visual message. Squares such as those framing the symbols on the wide runners represent the four gospels. Circles are for eternity, triangles for the trinity, and spirals suggest movement.
We are workers in the kingdom. Christ gives his people a simple message. Love one another. Go and make disciples. Be my people. Simple in word and focus and yet often difficult to live into.

Mysterious Love (white & gold)

The final set has a formality and calm unlike the others. I imagined a perceived but incomprehensible order and energy as I sketched ideas. Focus came from Revelations 3:22 (Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches) and from the hymn Wie Schon Leuchtet (O morning star) by Philipp Nicolai.

I wanted there to be elements from each of the other sets in the white set. From the purple, I used knots and squares. From the green came people, squares, trumpets, and spirals. Repeated from the blue are the four pointed star, the netting overlay technique, and spirals.

The curved lines on the altar frontal and the banner are an abstract of Nicolai’s tune. I began the lines at different sections as if a round were being sung. Other than the receptive figures on the banner, elements are designed to be quiet and centered, perhaps even hushed.

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