I'm sure you've heard an artist refer to a work of art as her baby. Sometimes I feel that way about my paintings, but, more recently, my friend, Lindsay, helped me to understand more about why we make art. "It's like we're trying to solve a puzzle," she said (and I paraphrase), "Once we figure it out, the fun is over, and we don't need to do it again."
A long time ago I began a puzzle and ended up with a "baby." (Ok, that sounds really creepy, but it works in metaphor.) Today I need to tell you the story of this painting.
My friend, Jodi, has a fearless and wonderful passion for travel and loving on tiny children. She has been around the world caring for the sick and orphans, and she is also a talented photographer. Once upon a time, when I was painting much more prolifically, I fell in love with one of her photos of a Ugandan girl with a baby strapped to her back.
So, when I saw her picture of this young lady and a child, I was reminded of Mary, the mother of Jesus. I saw the selfless tenderness of a girl caring for a beloved child and was touched by the adoring tilt of her head toward the baby and the warm, sparkling eyes of the child looking straight on at the viewer. I began to wonder how God's children in far-away places like Africa related to the story of a very young mother caring for a baby who would be Lord. I'm pretty sure they did not envision an alabaster-skinned princess cuddling a fat tow-headed cherub on her lap between a couple of marble columns. Maybe it is this kind of relationship, this sort of everyday sight that you'd see along a dirt road outside a village half-way around the world, that really speaks of love to a culture so unlike my own.
Jesus was no more the fair-faced butterball baby depicted in our Christmas-time Sunday School worksheets than he was this ebony-skinned dumpling hitching a ride on his sister's back. He is God, and when he came to earth, he took on the flesh of everyone, for everyone.
And so I did it . . . . . . . . holding my breath and feeling my heart pound in my chest, wondering if this brushstroke would, in one fell swoop, flush hours of work down the toilet. . . . I painted a halo on the both of them in Chinese white, and I called it Madonna and Child.
The painting went with me to many many art fairs and shows and had some serious admirers, but never found a home until I donated it a few years ago. It's been on my mind lately, for some reason, and earlier this week I received a call that it would soon be hung in a church. You may see it in a familiar place sometime soon with a new name, and If you do, I want you to know why I painted it and what it means, and I hope you will remember as you look that
" . . . his name shall be the hope of all the world."