Ordinary Time: Proper 14

Green on Blue (Earth-Green and White) by Mark Rothko — oil on canvas, 1956, Arizona Museum of Art.

August 7, 2022 Lectionary Texts — Year C
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 and Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23 • Genesis 15:1-6 and Psalm 33:12-22 • Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 • Luke 12:32-40

View Lectionary

Image description: Over a dusty blue background float two large fuzzy edged rectangles of color: a white area on the lower half of the canvas and a slightly smaller deep green area at the top. Between these is a brilliant and dark sapphire blue band of color.

Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for, the absolute conviction that there are realities you’ve never seen. It was by faith that our forebears were approved. Through faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God; everything we now see was fashioned from that which is invisible. — Hebrews 11:1-3

This is a Rothko painting. Mark Rothko was a definitive artist in an art movement know as abstract expressionism. Though highly criticized at the time for their seemingly unskilled, lazy approach to making art, Rothko and other artists chose to cover canvases in splashes, drips, pours and swashes of paint.
Rothko explained his color field paintings to be a spiritual and meditative practice. A completed piece like Green on Blue was a very slow and time consuming endeavor involving the application of many layers of thin paint being built up on the canvas. Working in a slow manner such as this allows the artist to contemplate. This is remarkably similar to the way in which iconographers create Christian icon art. Paint is applied to areas of the image in thin layers lending time for the mind to meditate while the hands are busy with this work.

For a number of years now I have adopted a similar personal practice of layering paint to create abstract expressions. For me, this became a way of praying during a difficult time when I found other forms of spiritual practices to overwhelming. It is soothing to simply allow myself to express to God my thoughts or feelings through the colors I chose to work with.

Images of color abstraction paintings by Michelle L Hofer — acrylic on paper, 2018-2022.

It is the “unknowing” quality of faith present in the lectionary texts this week which inspired my art choice this week. We can’t possibly know or see or even understand at times what is unfolding in our lives, our surroundings, our world. It is natural to respond in fear, but God calls us just as he calls Abraham to live by faith rather than fear. I find in a Rothko color field painting the space to explore what it means to willingly step into the unknown present and future in faith. What do you see?

Practicing Visio Divina:

  1. View the artwork
    What do you see?

    Note shapes – color – style – movement
    What stands out for you?
    What are you curious about?
    What questions do you have?
    Hold back any feelings – judgments – opinions
  2. Read the accompanying scripture and look over the artwork again
    What connections do you make?

    Between the image and text?
    What is coming to mind from your own experience?
    What feelings are rising in you?
    Are you uncomfortable with something?
    There are no right or wrong answers
  3. Read the scripture again and explore the artwork a third time
    What do you hear?

    What is God saying to you?
    What do you wish to speak to God?
    What blessing or prayer is rising in you?

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