The story of Jonah is both a comedy and a tragedy. Having run away from God, been swallowed by a whale and spit back out on the shore, Jonah finally takes up the call to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh–representative of Assyria, a historic enemy of his people., only to have God repent of his planned judgement when the people respond with penitence.
Here is the challenge for Jonah: those who have traumatized his people will not be destroyed, they are not “getting what they deserve”, they too are the recipients of God’s grace.
Jonah is not pleased: it is for this very reason that he fled God’s call in the first place.
“I beseech You, LORD, was it not my word when I was still in my land? Therefore did I hasten to flee to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in kindness and relenting from evil. And now, LORD, take my life, pray, from me, for better my death than my life.”
Accepting God’s grace for his enemies becomes a step too far; the narrative ends with God in sorrow, and Jonah in a sulk.
I spent the last days of June at Pearson College, Metchosin, Vancouver Island, at a mentored art residency. Nine days of time to work with studio space, a mentor for input, and six new friends for support and camaraderie. It was time (and money) well spent!
The location proved ideal for my project. Most of my time was spent working through concepts and imagery for my latest piece, “In the belly of Sheol”. As noted on my Jonah page, the site provided both sea scenes and a whale skeleton as inspiration.
The experience also provided affirmation for the process and form that my current works are taking. When working in solitude, it is difficult to judge the logic and direction of concepts that don’t “fit” neatly into categories. I spent the week trying to describe what I do– illustration? drawing? it is not painting… finally, my fellow pilgrims on the residency named it for me:
The work I do is “narrative illumination”. I tell stories in images, drawing upon the ancient practices of manuscript illumination. Exactly!
So welcome to my renamed blog and my newest narrative illumination: