This Christmas season marked another great milestone toward embracing life post-pandemic. Renaissance Church, where I have been attending and growing more involved over a small matter of weeks, took a risk on Plasso and invited me to play an intricate role in celebrating the Christmas season by painting live during the candlelight service. This is the result of last night’s event.
The focus theme of the service, inside broader theme of Christmas, was on our inner light. Letting our light shine, embracing the light in us, showing that light to the world, and re-igniting the places inside of us that have gone dim. In preparing my heart and mind for this artwork, my immediate thought was to Cormac McCarthy’s epic, ‘The Road’. This is a tale of a man and son, fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world – and fighting to bring humanity back to civilization. The man planted in the boy the concept of being a light that brings goodness to the world using the phrase ‘Carry The Fire‘, which I have used for creative inspiration in previous works (follow the link to read). This story has many allusions to McCarthy’s personal faith; allegories to Abraham and Isaac, and blatant references to the Christ figure. Building on my preparation, the pastor shared with me his sermon notes, which included a phrase to inspire the people to action – ‘Ignite the light’. The culmination of these creative springboards was that the image would include fire, but I felt an image of a flame alone was not enough, something needed to really make this image pop, to “ignite the light” in the artwork itself, with the same energy that would dance on the wicks of every candle in the room that night. That’s when the idea hit……..fluorescent paint.
I have not worked with fluorescent paint previously, and I was not even sure what to purchase, so I found some craft paints online and began testing the process on a variety of surfaces. Those of you who are familiar with my work know that I love a scratchboard. The juxtaposition of beginning with the bleak darkness of a black panel and bringing out the color speaks in theological depths which adding color to a white panel doesn’t often reach. I gesso’ed a 30×40 panel and painted it abstractly with a rainbow of fluorescent colors, then added a thin layer of black to hide the party of hues that would burst to life as I worked.
With the stage set and my tools at hand, the service began, and with it, the true test of my light experiment.
I worked throughout the service; scratching, scraping, measuring and letting the image come to life as it chose. I realized early in, the scratching method was not moving at a pace which would allow me to complete it in the time frame. It was time to adapt and improvise. Understanding how Tempra (much like the name alludes) is temporary paint. It is easily reactivated into a liquid state, regardless of how long it has been dry, by adding water. I included a container of water in my stage prep, so I began brushing the surfaces with water before I started to scrape……BAM! The black began moving smoothly and the buried colors popped out just as I had imagined! In fact, it worked so well that I began using my smock and my drop cloth to swath wide strokes and scrub out brighter shapes of color quickly.
Since I started the image during the musical worship portion of the service, the image began as a simple depiction of two hands reaching down from the top of the panel, with open hands – cupped as if they were presenting an offering. Everything we do to use our gifts, display our gratitude and acknowledge G-d’s presence in our life is our offering of worship to our creator. As we transitioned from the first music set into the message time, I began adding a ball of flames in the palms of the hands. Each finger began to ignite and I washed more of the black off the background to show the fire illuminating the dark. As the service was coming to a close, I added the words to the bottom of the panel ‘Ignite the Light’, which sealed the message of the image, but the art was not complete. As the final ignition to this piece, I coordinated with the lighting tech team to cast a black light onto the panel as the congregation was standing to depart. While the house lights were dim, when the dark light hit, the image ignited into an explosion of colors.
You have a fire burning inside of you, that energy is where Hashem (God) resides. That passion is what you are created to become. Ignite your light.