“Picturing the Word” Art Gallery

If prayer is an attempt to bring Heaven into the world of the body, then art might be seen as a related impulse to infuse matter with spirit. A painter tries, by a jazzy combination of thought, will, and surrender, to capture a transcendent notion in matter.

Image-rich sermons like Father Daniel London’s can be translated by a painter into forms, movements, and landscapes. If the painter is attentive and lucky, those brushed collections of mineral and fluid (earthly matter) might capture some of the divine energy in the words from which they derive.

I began painting to Father Daniel’s live broadcast sermons during Covid lockdown in July of 2020. I would start at the beginning of each service, allowing the opening prayers and readings to inform a scaffolding of shapes upon which to place ideas that would arise in the homily.

The power of truthful language— in Holy Word and in precise human speech— is a theme in each of these paintings. I understand very little of the awesome nature of our Creator, the evolution of the human soul through Christ, or the legacy of spiritual gifts to which Father Daniel devotes his messages. But I do love to ponder those spoken realities in my heart, and to feel them move in my markmaking hands.

One could say that Father Daniel’s elaborations of The Gospel and my responses in paint have little to do with each other. In a way I could agree-  the art comes largely through my intuition and any definite associations are up for debate. But I see these efforts as being helped along by prayer, which places them in the sphere of the extraordinary, making possible connections that might not otherwise happen. Father Daniel begins each sermon with the prayer “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord our strength, and our freedom.” And before I began each piece, I said, “Thy will be done.”

So these are the meditations of my heart, as I listened Father Daniel’s sentences into my paintbrush. May they be pleasing in your sight, too.

David Lochtie

November 5, 2021

In the summer of 2020, I had made plans to go on a prayer retreat to Our Lady of the Redwoods Abbey in Whitethorn CA. When these plans changed due to COVID, I had to pivot and settle for an intentional prayer retreat at my own home. So, for several days, I cloistered in a guest room to pray, study, and read books on Thomas Merton. As I was reading about Merton’s relationship with Judaism, I felt an invitation from Merton himself to explore the mystical meaning of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. So, throughout the rest of the summer, I studied each Hebrew letter (in the context of Psalm 119) and learned that, according to Jewish mystical belief, all of creation has been formed and sustained by the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. I was captivated by the idea that everything that we see and experience has been inspired and created by an arrangement of Hebrew letters and words, pouring forth from the mouth of God. 

When I first preached on this concept, I should not have been surprised when artist David Lochtie told me that he was inspired by my words to create something new, an image expressing his own interpretation of my homily. The Hebrew letters were doing their job. I kept preaching on the Hebrew letters and David kept creating stunning images, which seemed to clothe my words in flesh and new color. 

Long after I finished my series on the Hebrew alphabet, David and I continued our dance of preaching and painting. The first couple paintings in this collection reflect the direct influence of the Hebrew letters, but all the paintings express the life-giving dance between word and image, especially in the context of prayer. One of the great lessons of the mystical Hebrew alphabet is that the primary purpose of language itself is prayer. 

I know these paintings are the result and fruit of prayer: David’s prayers, my prayers, and the whole community’s prayers during this long season of pandemic. And today I experience each of these paintings as an eloquent prayer written not with words, but with moving color and texture. 

Moreover, I sense in each painting a beckoning and a calling forth of prayer in the viewer. And so, I can’t help but wonder what creative prayers these images call forth in you. Do they call you to write, to paint, to dance, to sing, to laugh, to weep, to feast, to fast, to study, to teach, to feed, to serve, to heal? Whatever it may be, my hope is that these paintings invite you to co-create something new with the ancient letters of God, to put some flesh upon the everlasting Logos, and to indeed picture the divine Word colorfully in your life.

The Rev. Daniel London, PhD

The Feast of C. S. Lewis

November 22, 2021

“Take up Your Cross”      
The juxtaposed red and blue denote tension between powerful leaders and the revolutionary force for love, both in Jesus’ time and in Martin Luther King’s. A black bar forms the horizontal divisor, illustrating the difficult road of history. So you have red and white and blue…and black. And the colors at the top are from the stained glass window in our chapel. The golden patch in the middle is the treasure that comes when you surrender to a higher will. [Lochtie]
When Martin Luther King Jr. felt tempted to scale back his political involvement in order to protect himself and his family, he heard a still, small voice say to him, “Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness, stand up for justice, stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you, even until the end of the world.” Strengthened by the power that can “make a way out of no way,” he took up his Cross and ultimately changed the world. To me, this image conveys the power and beauty of standing up for justice and truth at the risk of losing comfort and security. [London]
“Love is the Oil”    
The yellow paint is the fragile light that tenderizes the atmosphere. [Lochtie]
On the Sunday after the 2020 presidential election, I began my homily with the following words of President Abraham Lincoln: “With malice toward none, with charity for all…let us strive on to achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” The parable that day described five bridesmaids who failed to bring sufficient oil for their lamps (Matthew 25:1-13). St. Augustine teaches us that the oil symbolizes love, which is necessary for guiding our way forward as a community and as a nation. The oil is love and love, in this painting, is the oil. [London]
“A Congregation of Colors”         
10/24/2020 (Outdoor service)
What caught my attention most that day was sunlight- the way it glowed in the leaves of the Hawthorne tree and caught the hair of parishioners in chairs on the grass. I copied greens and yellows to fill the shapes of the people gathering, interspersed within a blue I borrowed from the sky. [Lochtie]
This painting was created during an outdoor worship service in which I preached about the legacy of loving our neighbors. While I was preaching, neighbors, pedestrians, birds, sunlight, and the wind all joined us in worship, forming a spontaneous congregation of color and light. [London]
“Trinity # 2”
This is one of three paintings I did in the studio based on a classic Byzantine icon depicting The Trinity. Father Daniel and I had a conversation in the church one Sunday about the Trinity as a “circle dance” affirmed by Richard Rohr and modern physics. He later gave me the small reproduction; I copied, stylized, and abstracted. [Lochtie]      

The trinitarian understanding of God is at the heart of what makes us unique as Christians and it is the very doctrine of the Trinity that opens us up radically to the presence of God beyond the boundaries of our faith tradition, beyond the boundaries of doctrine itself. The doctrine of the Trinity makes it abundantly clear that God is love and Lochtie’s painting of the open circles swirling around the chalice invite the viewer to join this ecstatic and Eucharistic dance of Trinitarian love. [London]
“Trinity #3”
I abstracted the three persons, but retained the suggestion of a foundational edifice behind God the Father (green). The circling wind energies which connect the three indicate the path of the creative feminine Holy Spirit (red). [Lochtie]

The ancient theologians described the Trinity as a community of lovers dancing together in a circle, constantly giving and receiving to one another and thus giving birth to all of creation. This is how theologians in Cappadocia understood God in the fourth century. And what I find so fascinating is the fact that scientists today know that creation is composed of atoms; and an atom is most simply understood as the orbiting structure of three subatomic particles in a constant dance with each other. [London]

“You Never Know”
This is the painting that grew as I listened to David’s sermon last Sunday. It’s called “You Never Know,” and it is about our inability to discern food from weeds. Oil on canvas, 61” by 22” [Lochtie]

When Jesus spoke the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30,) he was teaching us not to be too quick to judge who is good and who is evil. This is because, as the title to David Lochtie’s states, “You Never Know.” One never is able to judge from another’s current behavior what it is that God has in mind for them. Maybe that delinquent will someday be led by God into the priesthood or the diaconate or become a great healer. “You never know,” but God does. [Shewmaker]

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