Master of the Storm, 2022, Oil on Canvas
The scene is a tempest. Bitter rain and flashes illuminate the waves and brine threatening to consume the horse. Utterly vulnerable, the beast is tossed by the sea. Its throat burns with salt water, it is sinking into the unfathomable depths. Hooves are not much use in a raging sea. The horse is paralyzed by fear, and desperate for help. Climax comes in the desperate realization and submitting to reality that the beast cannot help itself. It cries out for help. The Master is there enfolded in the prisms of the Sea beneath the very crashing wave threatening the Horse. He prevents the Horse from sinking, and provides a place in the sea to launch upward, but not outward, of the Storm. The Beast’s place is to struggle in the Storm with the Master.
Crisis is the air we breath. From a global pandemic, to confusion about which voices to believe, to the individual tragedies we live moment by moment. Master of the Storm was inspired first by a desire to study and paint a powerful horse interacting with a Master. Over the course of the work, I encountered an ancient poem illuminating three scenes: a raging sea, a prison, and a desert wasteland. Through it, I stared into the Deep like a child peering over the edge of a boat thinking he can touch the bottom. I reached down only to realize the water was hundreds of feet deep. Come sink in with me. *
The ancient song begins by beseeching the reader to remember. I love this. My artist creed wraps up with “by gratitude we fill the white space”. We make sense of trauma in remembering what good has come. It is through thankfulness for simple things we ignite our hope again. The air in our lungs, sunshine, beauty of a friend’s smile, and eyes to see it remind us all in not lost. Gratitude that there is a loving, Ancient Presence who sees you and cares more deeply that you can know. Your tears and terrors are not wasted, but rather a drink offering cherished by one named Love.
The author of the poem cries out to worship God. He reminds the rebellious of how the Lord attended to them in their distress. He speaks directly to us over an ocean of more than two thousand five hundred years: crisis is inevitable when the truth is forfeited. We sink in stormy seas of self providing. Humility is agreeing with reality: we are vulnerable. We are built to be known and to trust an unspeakably beautiful, powerful, Ancient, wise, and intimate God who cares for you and me. It has been my experience that suffering provides a unique catalyst to realize this. When a storm arises from the Deep waters we float over, our soul tears free from the natural callouses of comfortable life.
I struggle to render a story worthy of your attention. The focal point ended up being far too away to the right in the work. The plan was for the horse to be balanced by the Master on the left, with cubistic shapes uniting them through rendering wave forms and white caps meant to balance the canvas. The end result? I hold the brush and listen attentively to the subtle desires of lines yet to be made. The Master ended up being subtle. He is wrapped up in prisms of the wave crashing toward the Horse. He was repainted so many times I lost count. He never seemed right. I have long seen that I who hold the brush am to attend to the still quiet voice guiding the creation. It is larger than me. The work is to understand the world we inhabit and the powers at work in it through the stories and shapes of our lives. Lord be our interpreter. The manifested work of our lives are relics of our unique journeys—the muddy boots from distant lands. Know this: your storms are sacred. It might be that rescue looks like wrestling in the storm with a loving God, not a life raft to climb on.
I am the Christ bearer, and this is my work.
*See Psalm 107
He who knew no sin, became sin to save us.
He spoke and the raging sea obeyed.
He wondered in the waste land and accomplished what his predecessor could not.
He entered the prison of death and the walls crumbled before him.
He is compassionate and kind, slow to anger, and lavish with his steadfast love. He weeps with us.
Today I am bitter to see through a distorted lens of grieving tears.
One day I will see with eyes washed in death and my savior’s blood.
Together, we will sing of the Magnificent manifest in the stories from the Ages.