June 16, 2016

Artist Residency: Stefan Eicher

During the week of June 6, 2016, six of our visual artists gathered with Stefan Eicher, a friend of Vox and global missions partner, for a residency in Austin. The focus was on iconography and story. In the coming weeks we will explore the artists’ work. Below, Stefan reflects on his own piece. To see a full sized photograph of his piece, click here.

Title: The Christ

When I first saw this image in my mind I felt both deeply moved and not a little disturbed. I found it strangely compelling yet also felt anxious because of its unorthodox imagery. And yet I ended up choosing to paint it precisely because I wanted to challenge my own preconceptions about God. I wanted my neat and easy categories for the Christ to be challenged, to experience how an icon can be a window into the mystery of God, and be a spiritual engagement, a prayer.

A good painting starts off with questions, and what I find compelling is how the image exists somewhere between two, or more, meanings, and instead of giving me answers it helps me ask questions.

And yet it also speaks many things to me. It tells me for example about the incarnation. I chose to incorporate the icon tradition of portraying Jesus wearing two garments, a inner one that is red, the color of the divine, and a blue outer garment, signifying his humanity, Jesus fully God and fully human. It also gives me a way to better understand what the context 2000 years ago. Jesus’ own people were living under an occupying force in their own nation. The cross-shaped drone a means of execution. At another level placing Jesus among the Taliban extricates him from my middle-class westernized religious categories. I begin to see an outlines of the cosmic Christ. And finally it addresses my easy rejection of ’the other,’ my deeply religious ‘us-and-them’ mentality. It forces me instead to embrace the other, to see the humanity of the other, to see the image of the divine in the other. Like Mother Theresa who picked up the destitute and dying because she saw Christ in their faces.

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