Back in 2010 I had a solo art show of my eggs in the Art & Soul Gallery of our church. It was a huge leap of faith for me because it was the first time I really connected my art with my walk with God.
It ran throughout Lent, which is traditionally forty days of preparation for the Easter celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. Fasting and prayer often accompany this time of waiting. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. A time of soul-searching and repentance.
As I gave this thought and prayer, I recalled my childhood experiences with Lent. We usually chose to give something up as a reminder to pray and to look forward to the Easter celebration to come. It took a while but gradually words bubbled to the surface to express my Lenten experience. Fasting, prayer, listening, repentance. But the story didn’t stop there. At Easter fasting becomes abundance, prayer becomes hope, listening becomes growth and repentance becomes forgiveness. God’s story of love and transformation became more real now that I had words to express it.
Now I wanted to experience and express visually what that time of preparation meant to me. So the big question…how in the world do I take this colorful, traditional art done on eggs and give the viewer a sense of my own journey of faith? Eventually this thought crossed my mind. What if I gave up the use of color on these eggs? What if I only worked in black and white? My next thought was, “Are you crazy?”
I knew my designs would have to be strong enough to stand alone, without the distraction of color. How in the world do I create interest using only lines? I’d never tried this before and I was pretty sure I’d be able to do a few but could I create enough to fill the whole show? And what if I couldn’t come up with enough material in time? What if I failed? Fear, self-doubt, and a sense of the enormity of this task sidetracked me for a while.
As the days ticked by I kept hearing a soft voice say, “Just make one egg.” So I did.
“That wasn’t so hard,” I thought. And so I made another…and another…and pretty soon the design ideas flowed until chicken, duck, goose, and finally an ostrich egg all in black and white covered every surface of my workroom.
The show looked great in the gallery but I have no idea if anyone understood what I was trying to say with these eggs. And it doesn’t matter because the important part of the show for me was what I learned along the way. Sometimes God doesn’t give you the big picture. Sometimes you just have to start the journey and not focus on the goal. And sometimes you will find a joy in that journey that surprises you.
It is such a privilege to connect my spiritual life and my art…and to see it reach farther than I ever thought possible boggles my mind. Recently I submitted a photo of my work to Clayfire Curator and just yesterday found out it was chosen as part of a Lenten Prayer Project.
Lent, the season of reflection leading to Easter, brings to mind different images to different people. Growing up it always meant giving up something important to me, like candy. Avoiding sweets didn’t usually last very long, and then it was merely a matter of confessing my sin and waiting for the Easter bunny to bring goodies.
Last year my Lenten experience changed that mental image dramatically. Preparing for a gallery show of my pysanky and working only in black and white challenged me both as an artist and a Christ-follower. Through that experience I understood, possibly for the first time, what it really means to depend on God for my very next step. And the celebration of Easter felt so much sweeter with the joy of adding color back to my work.
I don’t know what Lent will hold for me this year, but I find myself looking forward to learning more about myself and about God through it all. What about you?
February 21-April 18, 2010
Art & Soul Gallery
Oak Hills Church, Folsom, California
Lent is a time of preparation for the Easter celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. Historically the Church sets aside the forty days of Lent for fasting and prayer, imitating Christ’s forty day experience in the desert. Lent is a time of waiting. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. A time of soul-searching and repentance.
Connecting my artistic passion with my life in Christ has given me a whole new depth of awe and wonder about God, my Creator and Savior. As I contemplated this project, the first question that came to mind was, “How do I link this highly symbolic art with the season of Lent?”
Beginning with prayer and trepidation, I challenged myself to work only in black and white. Without the distraction of color, each design must truly stand on its own. I also experimented with a wide variety of designs, from simple to complex. The time it took to create each piece provided a refreshingly quiet space to contemplate this season’s purpose.
Exploring the Lenten Season through the art of pysanky has not only stretched me as an artist, it has given me a new appreciation for the history and the practice of Lent. As you wander through the gallery, take your time…slow down…and let this season sink deep into your soul as well.
Teresa Mihalko Harbert—Pysanky Eggs