Textile mural, 14′ wide and 7.5′ long. Constructed in 17 separate panels.
Photo courtesy of Nancy DeForest. She snapped it with her phone as a great kindness to me. I had not yet seen all the panels hanging together because it is too large for my small studio.
Here is what I wrote to the people of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Beaumont, Texas:
The happiest part of this mural project for me, the artist, is knowing that it will be used in the fellowship hall. During design and construction, I imagined members of your faith family pausing during a meal and using the mural for conversation. A father and his children play a counting game. How many trees? Flowers? Shells? Spirals? (Good luck with the last one.) Several older friends notice the storm near the cross and reflect about difficult times and drawing near to Christ.
There is much of me in this mural: designs, fabrics, and techniques collected and evolved over years of work. Moreover, there is much of what has created the communion of saints in this mural.
The mural conveys the mystery, joy, and energy of the triune God who is with us always. The prominent cross, representing Christ, is made with three layers. In the middle, a simple brown cross to recall the crucifixion. Under it, an expansive green net cross for the growing church. The top cross with red and orange flames represents spirit-filled Christians, especially remembering St. Stephen and those who worship in this congregation. God the creator is represented by the underground river, an omnipresent source of sustaining love, at the bottom of each panel. The dove symbol of the Holy Spirit, appears seven times. In the first panel, it ushers in the mystery of creation. The dove swoops down close to the baptism shell, then rises up to bless the elements of grain and grapes. With linen in its beak, it attends the cross. And it moves us out of the mural and into the world with an olive branch for peace.
The making of the mural has been a journey of trust. My studio is too small to see all the panels at one time. First I made the cross. Then constructing the complex underground river got my mind and heart into work. I hesitated about the next step, but was blessed with the idea: work up from the river and out from the cross. That is how the panels were created. I built in both lively, colorful areas and quiet, meditative spaces. I worked for contrast so the doves are clearly visible. There are flowers in each of the liturgical colors: blue, green, purple, red, and white. One odd bunny snuggles at the foot of the cross. His name is Basil and he represents the child in each of us. He is there for comfort. The waywardness of the sheep in the pasture is intentional. Their theme song is “You can go your own way.” I like some humor in my days.
When I realized I had technologically failed to secure all the photos I took of the panels before shipping, I panicked. I sat down, visualizing the mural hung in a dimly lit room. I was aware of the strong river and the prominent cross. And I sensed the dove moving through the space. My concerns ceased. All the colors, all the shapes, all the textures are secondary to the river, the cross, and the dove. God is with us. Amen.