The St. Francis Series
St Francis has been consuming all of my artmaking these days. He’s taken the lion’s share for more than the past year. I’m going to try to set down here some of what it is that I’m thinking about as I make these images.
As I have written about before here, my Dad died in October of 2016. I started to make drawings about that almost immediately. I kept making them and making them. They were coming fast — often two or three were in the works all at the same time — and then they stopped. I don’t know if I ran out of gas or what, but they stopped. But then I had the desire to make a large print at this time that was about a Psalm. Any Psalm at all; I didn’t really care which. I’ve written about that process here. That triptych is now finished and printed. And now I have four of a projected 20 (25?) auxiliary prints finished. All of them are based on both a Psalm and the life of St Francis.
I think the overriding theme of this series is suffering. St Francis suffered; he embraced suffering as an instrument that would help him become more like Christ. I think he was right; but whereas St Francis sought out and welcomed suffering, almost no one else does that. But it seems that God offers the grace of suffering to us whether we would have it or not. It depends on us and what we make of this grace that determines if it proves to be redemptive or transformative. I probably need to unpack that more, but I’m not sure how to at this point. Because my words or thoughts are coming up short here, I’ll lean on Flannery O’Connor to say it for me, “[people] think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”
The teacher in Ecclesiastes says, “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” We are also told in Hebrews that Jesus, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered…”. These things are likely too wonderful for me and I do not feel confident in trying to explain how it is that Jesus learned obedience. What I can do is reflect on what I have learned through my own suffering in the loss of my father. I can agree with the teacher in Ecclesiastes that there is much to be learned in mourning and not nearly as much in mirth. I think my sorrow is transforming me for the better; or at least it has made me wiser both in experience and in empathy.
I’m not finished with this series — not by a long shot — so I hope to see this idea developed further as I carve through a lot more linoleum.