“always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13)
I wonder how the first image affects you: which square are you drawn to? What do you think it says? This piece, one of my earlier works, is currently on show in a local atrium, and so visible to the general public. I was invited to exhibit it as part of Holy Week in a town centre church, right in the heart of the shopping area. It was installed just before lockdown and is now, it seems, permanently in stasis, behind glass yet visible.
The artwork, called ‘Mend’, was made in response to the challenges of a long-term relationship: the way we can hurt each other and the ongoing need to heal ourselves. Like the lilies in the images, our human attempts at mending are often inadequate or irrelevant, but at least we try. The piece obviously references the cross, a place of wounded healing for some of us, where God died to mend a relationship with humanity and to show us love.
I have to be honest; relationships are strained at the moment in my household. The ongoing pressure cooker of lockdown, even though slightly eased (and so maybe more likely to let off steam!), has turned me and my husband into the proverbial grumpy old married couple. We are in each other’s space the whole time, and for the foreseeable future. He will be working from home for at least the next year, I am furloughed with no clear return date for a job I might not have anyway. And because of those we care about we have less freedom than others seem to now be enjoying. Like my artwork, we feel like we’re in stasis.
The second image shows one of the images that I created working with twelve couples as part of the Mend project. I asked each couple to collaborate with me to make two pictures about their long-term relationships: one about that relationship and one about a mutual bond that was a significant part of it: how they spent their time together, or a common interest for example. This couple had their own film projector and loved watching films together. Since this picture was made, they have been through some huge ups and downs, more than many relationships would withstand, and yet they are still together and in a loving and caring partnership. I think this image shows something about finding common focus, and spending quality time together. It could be seen as a plaster on a lily, but it is certainly an attempt to heal through shared intent.
The survival of this particular relationship has involved huge sacrifices, sometimes ones that I am not sure I would have the grace to make. Yet it stands as a testimony to the everyday commitment to love another person, despite all the difficulties. The focus is always a willingness to look ahead together, to see the reality of our woundedness and yet our capacity to love: not at a safe distance behind a glass wall but as a very real presence in our daily lives, projected on the inner screen of our homes.
Take time to look at the pictures and consider these questions:
- How are your relationships at the moment?
- Where is your love found? Who is important to you?
- How can you mend yourself or others?
You will need a flower, and one of the following options:
Nail and hammer / needle and thread / tape / glue / plaster
- Take your flower and destroy or damage it however you want
- How does it feel to damage a living thing?
- Now take your chosen option from above and use it to try to mend that brokenness
- How does it feel to attempt to heal?
- Spend a few minutes in stillness, considering this experience.