The Rescue – on the Second Sunday of Advent

To free or deliver from confinement, violence, danger, or evil.

To liberate or take by forcible or illegal means from lawful custody.

On this second Sunday of Advent 2014, we celebrate Jesus’s arrival as the spiritual medevac for creation. Our captor is stripped of power, the walls that cage us compromised. Today we celebrate our rescue.

The Rescue

Today’s piece is a modern adaptation of an ancient Christian symbol, designed to pronounce Jesus as savior.

Ancient Savior SymbolDesigned by Greek artists, the center of this icon references the cross used to slaughter Jesus the man in an effort to eradicate the Roman culture of the spirit of love and social justice he lathered over his community.

The sets of letters each carry significant meaning.

IC are the first and last letters of Jesus’s name, written in Greek. Ἰησοῦς, transliterated as Iésous (ee-ay-sooce) are the names we know as ‘Jesus’ or ‘Joshua’.

IC XC NIKA

XC are the first and last letters of the title, Christ.  Χριστός, transliterated Christos (khris-tos) literally means, anointed one, the Messiah, the Christ.

NI KA are meant to be read as one word, NIKA. Nika is a Greek verb which translates into our language as ‘to conquer, win, be victorious’.

The final statement of the Christogram, ICXCNIKA, is this phrase:

“Jesus Christ is victorious.”

I have modernized the Christogram to reflect our theme for this second Sunday of Advent, “The Rescue”. Using an old, beaten and tattered work table from a furniture manufacturing plant, I cut a panel to feel like war-torn debris. The panel is cut to 33″ x 33″, representing the 33 years Jesus walked on the planet.

Using a textured, Army green spray paint, I covered the wood panel and scraped over the tacky coat to create even more textural nuances and make the panel appear camouflaged.

My central cross is the Red Cross logo. Nearly every human being from even the least industrialized nation automatically associates this logo with a rescue team, emergency relief and disaster recovery. This is the universal symbol for being rescued.

The goal at this point was to make the panel feel like it is a piece of a military emergency medical vehicle recovered from ground zero along the front lines of battle. This panel, damaged, beaten and riddled with imperfections is humanity. Our natural tendency is to focus all of out intensity on camouflaging every flaw in a sheer mask of perfection. Despite our best efforts, the truth will always shine brighter than the fabricated reality we project.

The red cross covers our facade with blatant disregard for our weak attempts to reconcile ourselves. The red is bright, it saturates every flaw and jumps off the board to suddenly draw you into itself in a sweep of fierce protection.

The letters, sprayed on like a graffiti artist’s tag in a blood red paint surround the cross that holds you secure. ICXCNIKA, Jesus Christ is victorious.

The rescue is upon us.

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For God and Country

Once again, we enter into the home stretch of an election year, bracing for an overload of partisan propaganda and wild rumors of certain Armageddon scenarios if particular candidates are elected. Today opens the ballot boxes for early voting in some states, marking the beginning of the end for this chaos. Looking over the brainstorming notes for future series ideas this summer, a four word phrase coinciding with this season demanded my attention; For God and Country. Despite not having any guarantee this will become a series of messages and drawings, the idea took root and creating this piece became inescapable.

I am a huge Marvel comics fan, Stan Lee’s creations inspired much of my early work. Combine that with enjoying the occasional Colbert Report and the phrase, “God and country” immediately brings Captain America’s shield to mind. The summer’s release of ‘The Avengers’ and resulting influx of Marvel paraphernalia in toys aisles across the country have, once again, defined this symbol as an indisputable icon of heroism and American patriotism.

Exciting as the initial surge of patriotic adrenaline may be, let’s step back and listen for what this piece is saying.

The first panel of this piece is a sheet of plywood with a smooth, finished face. This is the start of creation, smooth and untainted. As the image moves toward you, the first layer is segments of this original material, cut into smaller panels. Subsequent layers mimic this panel appearance, but are constructed of lower-quality OSB board. As the piece progresses toward you, it regresses in material quality. This tainting of the materials represents our working relationship with creation. We take the raw materials God invented for our use and destroy them, then reassemble the fragments into something that mimics the original design in an attempt to make the original better. Often this process of re-creation will benefit society, but the materials I chose are an example of the opposite reaction. The imagery here is God’s original creation and our use of that creation to build life as we know it. Just as the materials lose their quality as they are layered, the more effort we spend elevating ourselves, the more fragile our creation becomes.

The icon of the Captain America shield is what stands out on this piece. Each layer contains the full shape of the shield, covered by the next layer then spray painted back on.  Painting the shield on to the original, smooth panel create the highest quality and most aesthetically pleasing image. As I added the layers of smaller panels and re-applied the shield, the original image lost its crisp quality due to over-spray. We have parts of our original design in sight, we can even discern the full image when we step back and look at the whole picture, but the panels (our efforts to re-define creation) disrupt the image. This distracts us from seeing the big picture, only focusing on a piece or two at one time. As the old adage goes, we can’t see the forest for the trees.

The piece hangs on the wall in an awkward position in relation to the floor. Artwork is normally hung in a position that is perpendicular to the floor. This irregular display will drive some viewers crazy, at least, that is my goal.

The angled display and fuzzy background layers of this piece communicate to most minds that something is off. Many will want to intervene and repair what they see off, to make sense of the image and settle the uneasiness its imperfection creates in their conscience.

Take action to mend what you see broken, redirect what is misguided, cultivate what you find neglected. Be the difference you long to see.

Own your responsibility. 

For God and country.