St Francis and the Leper

It is my great fear that most people look at this print and see a zombie. That is not my intention. He’s a leper (a victim of Hansen’s disease I think it’s called now). There is a fantastic story about the young Francis as he encounters a leper on the road. Francis is immediately terrified of the man and his instinct is to turn away. Of course, Francis being the man he was, immediately jumped off his horse, ran to the leper, embraced him and gave him all of his money. When Francis had remounted his horse, he turned to look at the leper, but he had gone. The story heavily implies that the “leper” was actually an angel in diguise.

I have no idea. But what I wanted to show was the leper in all of his tragedy. I vastly prefer to draw from life over drawing from photographs, but seeing as how I do not know anyone with leprosy, I was forced to look at photos. I noticed how many people in these photographs were holding up their arms to show that they had few if any fingers left. That struck me and I crossed the arms of the man in my print.

My colleague and I were talking about the process of making art and just how much of it is unconscious. It is my thought that the artist certainly consciously thinks of ideas and begins to make his art. However, if he’s doing his job all of the compost from countless books, essays, conversations and more in his mind will start to engender new ideas and new connections that he is not consciously aware of and these ideas will make their way into the artwork. I think that’s happening in this print – especially in the crossed arms. They are at once a barrier, warding off contact; they are a request for blessing like a non-communicant will sometimes make at the communion rail; they are held in the shape of a cross. I am positive that there is more to be said about this print, but I’ll leave that to others to say.

I’m very excited to see where this print series is going. I am about a third of the way there!

The leper crosses his arms, signifying… what?

I love seeing the block next to the finished print.


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