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, Mick Santostefano reflects on one of his pieces. To see a full sized photograph, click here.
Title: The Holy Mundane – Saint Wormy the Beloved
The first thing that stands out to me about an Icon painting is the golden halo, a signifier of the holy and anointed ones. For me this brings up the questions, ‘Who is holy?’ and ‘What makes them holy?’ I was raised Catholic, so I grew up surrounded by images of holy people and Icons. In that tradition, I was taught that to be holy or a saint, you had to be a witness to or actually perform miracles–basically, accomplish something amazing. I don’t believe that now. I believe we are holy because we are loved by the Holy One. I love how Brennan Manning says in ‘The Ragamuffin Gospel’ that God is furiously in love with us, and that He desires to be part of every aspect of our lives.
In Proverbs 3:5 it says, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all.” (MSG) I wanted to express this reality visually. When God is invited into every aspect of our lives, the holiness we have is really from His involvement. Thus we are holy only because He is holy. We did nothing to achieve it. I chose the mundane, familiar, and even gross task of unclogging a toilet to contrast the usual glorified imagery of saints, and other holy people often seen in Icons. Unclogging a toilet can be considered a holy task! I chose to have a worm performing the task because a worm is lowly, as we humans are. But though we are lowly, paradoxically at the same time, we are the beloved of God. “Do you feel like a lowly worm, Jacob? Don’t be afraid. Feel like a fragile insect, Israel? I’ll help you. I, God, want to reassure you. The God who buys you back, The Holy of Israel. I’m transforming you from worm to harrow, from insect to iron…” (Isaiah 41:13-16, MSG).
I am the Holy Saint Wormy the Beloved, and I have performed the holy task of unclogging a toilet.