An Account of an Offering

Jean Rath

2015-05-20

Many years ago at an Anglican Church in Montreal, the Reverend Jody Medicoff commissioned a work of art. Recruiting five artists from the congregation, she gave each of them a different scripture verse. They were to use their verse as inspiration for a graphic design. Each design was to include rainbow colours, signifying hope.

One of those five artists is my Mom, Anne Hill. Mom’s scripture came from Numbers 21. This is the story of the Israelites who, camping in the wilderness, had just suffered an invasion of poisonous snakes. The Lord told Moses to place a bronze snake on a pole, and anyone who looked at it was healed of the deadly snakebite.

Mom did not have any immediate revelations about how her design should look. The story was set in the wilderness, but she didn’t want to use the ordinary, overused Middle Eastern desert scene. At this time, my Dad’s entire health was in decline. He had suffered a bout of depression, had undergone treatment for prostate cancer, and he was now in the midst of Alzheimer’s. Mom was his primary caregiver, working hard to keep him active and engaged. One winter day, she took him by bus and metro to an eye appointment at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. It was an awful day of wet snow and sleet. The city was full of icy puddles that splashed them as they waited for their bus. It was a long journey, and as they boarded the last bus, Mom looked out at the bleakness of this wintry city … and then the revelation struck: “This!” She thought, “This is the wilderness!” Then the bus drove past a billboard announcing a cancer-research fund: “Healing Is in Your Hands.” The theme of her design became “Healing in the Wilderness.”

Panel 1 Panel 2 Panel 3 Panel 4 Panel 5

Since the design was to be a wintry wilderness, Mom chose an inuksuk as the central object. Mom is wonderful with inuksuk. She has already done several paintings of them, which are hanging in her home. The inuksuk can represent the one that points out the way. That’s what Jesus said about himself: “I am the way.” He is the way to many things, including healing. In order to comply with the instructions for rainbow colours, Mom included northern lights in her design (see panel 2).

When the five artists had completed their designs, they gathered to create their communal work of art on five separate panels. They all worked on the panels together, each panel governed by the specific design of the artist (see panels 1 & 3–5). As they created the communal work, they incorporated their final instruction: a dove motif spanning the entire work (see entire work, above).

This communal painting hung in Memorial Hall, at St. Barnabas St. Lambert, for many years. As with many other hangings in hundreds of other halls in thousands of other churches, it eventually had to make way for upgrades and changes. It has now joined the ranks of the millions of works of art that have been produced over the millennia of human existence: created, enjoyed for a while, gone. I’m sorry that this creative offering no longer exists. But I’m grateful that in this day and age I can easily preserve its image and tell its story.


©Copyright 2015, Christopher & Jean Rath
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Address: 1371 Major Rd., Ottawa, ON, Canada K1E 1H3
Last updated: 2015/06/26 @ 20:30:58 ( )