This artwork was installed at Veritas Community Church (Short North), 345 E Second Ave at the beginning of the 2020 Lent season.
Courtney St. Onge
by Cody Wood
Last summer, I was volunteering with David Lane at Veritas Community Arts Camp. I showed him a photo I had taken at The Columbus Museum of Art – just a detail of a Rubens called “Christ Triumphant over Sin and Death.” The painting is dominated by the robust physique of the Risen Christ, holding a banner signifying his ultimate victory. After the immediate impact of the central figure, the viewer might notice a literal “footnote.” In the shadows of the lower right hand corner, Jesus’ foot is pinning a snake to an overturned skull, next to a rift in the ground, that is spitting up hellish flames.
David shares my enthusiasm for the power of art to speak without words. We admired Rubens’ potent image cluster: Flesh, Sin, Death, and Hell… all underfoot, all vanquished in the person of King Jesus.
I don’t know if David was reminded of our talk when Lent season rolled around, or if he had been quietly holding this ace up his sleeve since the summer, waiting until now to lay it on the table. Just a month or so ago, he approached me after a worship gathering, reminding me of the painting with a suggestion, “That small detail– we should do it big!”
We got in touch with Lauren Raper, the Short North Director of Worship at Veritas, and planned it out, finally enlisting the skills and talent of eight artists. We spread the composition of that relatively small detail across sixteen canvases. The resulting image, even though just a portion, is much larger than the original Rubens.
All eight artists took their canvases home with their assigned fraction of the whole. There was no strict oversight or coordination. We each simply did our part. Each artist bought their own interpretation and solutions to the problems of their segment of the image. Some are very literal and conservative, others more liberal and adapted. All are faithful to the source material; every artist attempting to make something centuries old fresh, so that its truth and reality can be seen and considered by new eyes.
During the planning, execution, and installation of the final piece several truths came through to me in ways that only art and making can speak to you. I heard concepts and quotes from scripture echo through the design of this overall work. One of the canvases I was to paint had a fragment of the sacred foot of Our Risen Lord. “…my body, broken for you” and “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news.”
The original painting is attributed to “Rubens and workshop.” Rubens didn’t work alone, but was in charge of a school of painters, disciples, you might say, all submitting their individual identities and credits to the name of the master. Many members united. Even though the images on these separate sections might not quite align or stylistically “match” they still, by design, definition, and purpose, form a whole. These small fractures and misalignments, point to our own imperfections, errors, and limitations, which reveal the grace of Our Father. Christ in his body, took on flesh and all that it is heir to, that we might be heirs to his resurrected incorruptibility. The breaks and places that the individual canvases don’t quite meet remind us that The Body, having many members, is sometimes disjointed, but still one. We must, by faith, do the work of bringing these pieces together, trusting that they belong, and can be reconciled and united. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
The God who makes himself known through Eve’s Seed, David’s Heir, The Serpent Crusher, The Death-killer– his Holy Spirit walks among us, lives within us, unites us and INSPIRES us to Hope in the face of anything!