The Butterfly ~ A Symbol of Resurrection

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In George Ferguson’s informative book, “Signs and Symbols in Christian Art” he lists the butterfly as a symbol of resurrection. He explains, “The butterfly is sometimes seen in paintings of the Virgin and Child, and is usually in the Child’s hand. It is a symbol of the Resurrection of Christ. In a more general sense, the butterfly may symbolize the resurrection of all men. This meaning is derived from the three stages in its life as represented by the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and the butterfly, which are clearly symbols of life, death, and resurrection.” (page 13)

This Easter, I set out to design some eggs using this Christian symbol. I believe Jesus rose from his tomb three days after his crucifixion, so the butterfly is more than just a beautiful symbol of the past, it is a symbol of future hope. Why?

Paul wrote to the early Christians living in the city of Corinth:

” I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (I Corinthians 15:50)

Are we going to become butterflies? No, much better than that. Paul explains earlier in his letter, “Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength.  They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies.”

We will have new bodies, able to do unimaginably more than we can in our physical bodies. Like what? The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what it will be like, but if Jesus was walking through walls, appearing to different people in different places, and flying up to heaven, we have clues of how amazing it will be.

 How can I believe in something supernatural? There are many reasons, but I’ll share one. The Hebrew prophet, Isaiah, wrote in detail about Christ’s life and death 700 years before Jesus was born. I’ve never heard any convincing explanation as to how someone could get the details of another’s human being’s life and death so accurate seven centuries before they lived, except that it was information given to him from God. The almost incomprehensible accuracy of the Hebrew scribal tradition (how they copied their scrolls and passed them on through the centuries) was affirmed by the discovery of the book of Isaiah among the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. The Qumran copy matched up with the earliest text at that time, which was a thousand years younger. The text had not been tampered with and it had not been altered. So we find ourselves in an interesting situation when we come to Isaiah. We can choose either coincidence or divine revelation. Given the time that passed between Isaiah and the birth of Jesus (700 years), I find coincidence to be more difficult to believe! Excellent scholarly exposition on this topic can be read here. To my mind, the Bible has proven itself to be a supernatural book, and this is one reason I believe the biblical account of the Resurrection of Christ to be true.

Here are a dozen more “eggs to crack” if you’re curious about the claims of Christ’s Resurrection.

I began with wooden eggs that were already painted white. Using patterns on my phone as a guide, I sketched the designs using a .03 mm. Micron pen.  Chameleon alcahol ink markers added gradient blended hues to the wings.  It was a bit tricky, since the markers smeared the pen. I had to be careful, but the fin tip ends of the markers allowed me to color in the small spaces.

Here are some process photos~ Thanks for stopping by to see my art and may God richly bless you and yours this Resurrection Sunday!

 

~Scarlett
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 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

John 11:25
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“Ladder to the Moon”, Globe Inspired by O’Keefe

Looking through some art books recently, I was struck by how many paintings had ladders pointing toward the sky.

From the very early depiction of Jacob’s ladder from the 4th century Catacomb of the Via Latina.

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To this painting from the french school,  c. 1490, interpreting the same story-

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Art from the Christian tradition features the story of Jacob’s ladder as it is told in the Old Testament scriptures. It tells of a man’s vision of a supernatural world not visible to the human eye, but real nevertheless; a world where angels ascend and descend a heavenly stairway. Here’s a beautiful drawing, c. 1728, by Gerard Hoet

La escalera de Jacob, Gerard Hoet, Biblia Ilustrada, 1728

As the centuries have gone by, artists have continued to depict sky ladders, though the narrative is less clear. In modern art, ladders are often placed in ambiguous settings with no clear destination, such as in Anselm Keifer’s “Seraphim” from 1945-

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Most recently in 2016, Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Sky Ladder”, used explosives and a giant balloon to give viewers a fiery visual stairway stretching up hundreds of feet overhead.

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Guo-Qiang said :  ““…I want to make a ladder to connect the Earth to the universe.”

Is it a connection to the universe artists are seeking? Or to the unknown?

One of my favorite ladder pictures is by Georgia O’Keefe. In “Ladder to the Moon” (1958) there is no destination and the ladder itself is suspended in mid-air, disconnected from the ground. O’Keefe’s picture seems to be asking, “Is there something more?” and “Can we get there?”

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Voices all around us tell us there is nothing beyond this physical world, and yet, most of us live as if there is. We interact with the world in such a way that affirms the existence of things that we cannot see: love, justice, mercy, hope, numbers, logic, etc. These things are evidence for a world beyond.

When I observe sky ladder art that was created out of the Christian tradition, I perceive a strong sense of certainty. The existence of the supernatural is a settled issue. In contrast, there are questions being asked in the modern depictions, and the viewers are given no answers.  Why do artists continue to paint sky ladders? Even the briefest study of art history makes this plain. They reveal the universal longing for immortality.

As a Christian, I believe there is a spiritual realm that is just as real as this one, and I identify with the artworks that depict a ladder firmly planted on the ground, in real space and time, with a sure destination at the top. Unfortunately, we can’t reach the supernatural realm by ladder, but the Bible tells us many things about what it is like and how we can get there when our lives here are complete. The words of the Psalmist still speak to those who are anxious about the future climb: “I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4).  Jesus Christ encouraged all who are searching for answers: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

I wanted to alter this small globe as soon as I saw it on the clearance aisle! The paper was just torn a bit, so I tore it off completely and got out fiber paste medium and paints. I decided to use O’Keefe’s painting as my inspiration. It reminds me of the universal longing humans have for another world.  The desire for this world is so powerful, even the most ardent deniers, such as O’Keefe herself, cannot escape its pull. They hint at it in their compositions.

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~Scarlettokeefe 6

Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin-Form Without Spirit

Walking toward the south end of campus, you’ll see a new building at the University of Texas. It’s a large bulbous looking structure near the Blanton Museum of Art, as you pass between the PCL building and Jester dorm.  It looks like a giant igloo from the back–plain stone, bereft of architectural interest.

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As you walk around, three of the four sides of the cruciform structure have colored glass in simple, geometric patterns.

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The building is called “Austin”, and the plans were gifted to the Blanton Museum by American artist, Ellsworth Kelly, shortly before he passed away in 2015.

Here’s what the publicity says:

“Kelly envisioned his creation as a site for joy and contemplation in the tradition of modernist artist-commissioned buildings, such as the Rothko Chapel in Houston and Henri Mattisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire in Southern France. It is an extraordinary acquisition for the Blanton and Austin community.”

Of course, one wonders how it can be in the tradition of the Rothko chapel and the Mattise chapel when the Blanton museum has gone out of its way to make sure everyone knows it’s not a chapel.

The building will be open to the public for the first time this coming Sunday, February 18, with an accompanying exhibition, Form into Spirit: Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin.

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The title of the exhibition should raise the brows of anyone who’s paying attention.

Kelly was an atheistic naturalist. This philosophy denies the existence of anything spiritual. If you believe, as Kelly did, that matter is all there is and we are nothing more than the product of mindless, unguided natural processes, there is no spiritual realm.  There can never be any spiritual dimension for the atheist, unless they borrow from a religious framework, which is exactly what is happening here.

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Kelly’s structure is form without spirit. That would be a better title, consistent with the the artist’s life and the corpus of his work.

Atheists, like Ellsworth Kelly, borrow from religion because they cannot consistently live out atheism and its ramifications, or speak about it without refuting their own views. Their art must draw from other resources to find meaning.

I explain Kelly’s worldview in this short video and then relate it to the “Austin” structure in this short video.

Ellsworth Kelly’s homosexual partner, Jack Shear (still living), has called it a “secular chapel”.  But that’s an oxymoron. Before we jettison all logic, we should recall that “chapel” is a word referring to a place for Christian worship. At the very least, it denotes a place for religious observance. Don’t take my word for it, just google it.

An argument could be made that the language surrounding Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin does violence to language itself. It denigrates what little Christian heritage remains in our culture by redefining and confusing the very words we use to talk about it.

Some questions to think about:

Why do atheists use religious language?

Why is the Christian faith often seen as an enemy of the artistic elite?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine Mitten Garland

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Valentine Mitten Garland

Materials:

Pencil

Scissors/Pinking Shears

Quilt batting

Red felt

Needle and ivory thread

Jute

Mini clothespins

I drew a small mitten pattern with a pencil and then traced it so the mittens would be similar. I also cut the bottom of the mittens with pinking shears to give them a decorative edge.

Here are some process photos!  Thanks for stopping by and have a blessed day!

~Scarlett
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