Phaedra Jean Taylor
Christ Church: The Feast of Pentecost, 2015
This triptych was made based on verses from Psalm 85 and Acts 2 (both from The Message) and is intended to be used as a liturgical aid during the season of Pentecost.
Maps, text, line drawing, along with other embedded papers and objects provide a texturally rich composition. The pieces were made using a painting technique called encaustic. In this way of art making, hot wax and resin are layered on and heated repeatedly in order to create an image. This is a slow and tedious process, but it yields images and textures that are unlike any other visual medium. The hope is that as we sit with these pieces, we begin to see new things and to make connections with the images that enable us to soak in the truth the psalmist witnesses to.
“Our country is home base for glory!… Right living strides out before him, and clears a path for his passage.” —Ps 85: 9, 13
The left and right panels contain landscape images, referencing the practice of our sanctification, our active pursuit of the knowledge of God, and his inclination toward us. We walk to him, he walks to us. We walk together through the landscape of our lives. The scene is full of hollows and hills. The terrain is not straight, nor is it predictable. What lies before us is not a peak to conquer but a wayfaring expedition of exploration. The action in this scene is not toward an end but into a new country.
“Right living pours down from the skies.” “Love and Truth meet in the street, right living and whole living embrace and kiss.” —Ps 85: 11,10
The left panel has the suggestion of a downward movement with three gold squares descending from the top of the composition. The bottom of the image contains the plat map for the Medina Street property and the surrounding neighborhood. God descends upon his people from beyond our world, but his people also carry the presence of God into the places where they dwell. So the movement here is not just of God pouring down upon us from beyond, but also of his people spreading around his life right where they are, in the mundane and ordinary ways of serving, loving, living.
“Truth sprouts green from the ground… Oh yes! Our God gives goodness and beauty! Our land responds with bounty and blessing.” —Ps 85: 10, 12. “Then like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.” —Acts 2:4
The right panel has a visually upward movement with organic seed pods bursting up from the bottom of the scene and a gold square grid rising from the ground. These pods are the woody follicles of the Banksia plant. The plant produces a flower spike that is covered in hundreds or even thousands of flowers. After the flowers are spent, the flower spike dries and becomes the follicle that holds the seeds. The woody pod can exist for years without germination, waiting for the element that is needed to release the seeds: fire. A Bushfire is needed to stimulate the opening of seed-bearing follicles and the germination of seed in the ground.
“The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.” —2 Cor. 13:14
The center panel is comprised of three materials: old wood, cream wax, and steel. The cold rolled steel is blackened and oiled, left with its natural texture and markings. The rough strip of wood is at least 175 years old, a piece of siding from an old house. The bank of cream wax was poured into a frame built up around the edge of the panel and is imprinted with lines of text from Psalm 85 and Acts 2 –impressed, letter by letter, into the under layers of wax. This panel is meant to be Trinitarian in its imagery. The wax, together with the wood, represents Jesus in the fullness of his humanity—made of the earth, marked, worn—elements able to be burnt up reminding us of his sacrifice, but filled with the living, never-ending breathing Word. The steel reflects the strength of the foundation of God andsimultaneously the void that existed in the hearts of Jesus’ followers before the gift of the Spirit was given to them at Pentecost. Steel nails anchor the wood into the panel symbolically binding the Jesus elements with the Father elements. The words imprinted into the wax also imply the background presence of the Holy Spirit – the Breath – waiting for his time to be given to the children of God. On Pentecost Sunday the congregation will participate in the completion of the piece by adding fabric flame magnets onto the steel portion of the center panel. Together, the wood, wax, steel, and flames intertwine to offer a way for the viewer to dwell on the inter-animating life of the Trinity and how the three Persons work in our own lives.
“When the feast of Pentecost came they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a strong wind, gale force – no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages.” —Acts 2: 1-4
The Sunday before Pentecost the steel is be bare, allowing for space to contemplate the void of black steel. On the first Sunday of Pentecost the congregation will fill the steel panel with 500 magnetic flames. This way each person who wishes can participate in the completion of the piece, and all can watch a visual representation of what it means to do a new thing together. The panel will fill with the flames as each adds their own magnet, transforming from a black and mysterious void into a golden riotous expanse of texture. The crowd of flames reflects the work of the Spirit to take the children of God and to make endless new things out of their lives. Together, these 500 leaves can be arranged and rearranged into hundreds of new combinations. This provides an experience of seeing how each flame of the Holy Spirit, when made alive, combines with all the other flames to become something marvelous: unexpected, unplanned, and profoundly reliant on each other.