Advent 2013 Liturgical Artwork "Rivering"

In October 2011, Janet Pugh, Jessica Taft and I spent three days with Nancy Chinn, a well-known liturgical artist in California. The time spent with her was not to design a piece of liturgical artwork, but to learn a process so our church could continually design liturgical artwork for the church. Each piece designed uses the same process. The only part of the process that changes is the scripture. The scripture leads the rest of the process in a direction that is unique. Using this process, a design has a very small chance of ever being repeated. A different group of people, or these same people at a different time, could experience the text in a very different way, thus changing the art itself.  
After having experienced two liturgical art designs, I think it is important for you to have an understanding of how “the process” works. I’m hoping you might find it interesting enough that you might like to be part of another liturgical art project in the future. The process begins by choosing a text, usually by looking at texts of the season, with some guidance from the clergy. Once the text is chosen and a committee is formed, the first session involves three separate parts. The first is the reading of the text. The text chosen for this Advent Liturgical art is Isaiah 2:1-5. During these readings, members of the group focus on words and phrases that “jump out” at them.  When meaningful phrases have been identified, the group members are asked to relate that phrase to a personal experience. After the members share their personal experiences, it helps to bring some emotions into play.  
The next phase of the process encourages members of the committee to choose pieces of paper and let their emotions and mind, without thinking too much, tear paper to create. Once each individual has a creation in front of them, they place them on the table together. Each creation is titled and then the members are asked to attach their creation to one or two other creations. This may all sound vague and simplistic, but it creates an atmosphere of sharing emotions, movements, and color that has all come from experiencing a portion of scripture together. 
Following the creations, the group learns the seven principles of design offered by Nancy Chinn. Working with each of the seven principles, the creations, the stories and the emotions, the group begins to sketch designs to reflect what they are feeling from the text. Every session the text is read multiple times, so it is prominent in everyone’s mind. Once a design has been accepted by the group, the medium, or way to communicate is chosen, and a schedule is made to involve the congregation in being part of the creation of the liturgical project. Following installation/s the group titles the project and hands it off to our artists in residence to experience.  
If you find the art process or the art itself intriguing or interesting, I hope you might join the committee after worship on Sunday, December 22nd to hear how “Rivering” was designed and created. I know the committee is anxious to hear your understandings also! Please read some of the committee’s reflections starting below.
With the intent of bringing a twist to the traditional decorations of Christmas, the Liturgical Art Group used the Isaiah scripture as a guide, with each of us focusing independently on the use of the word "river" as a verb. It presented us with an opportunity for movement, for diversity and, definitely, for non-traditional effect. Puzzling over the meaning of the art and drawing individual conclusions gives each member of the congregation a chance to be included in the project, which brings us closer in community.                         Linda Hancock
For me, the most meaningful and significant part of this process was sitting with the text from Isaiah and not having any expectations or preconceived idea of what the liturgical art would look like. The creation was Spirit led--even as the installation occurred. There was a sketch we worked from, but in handling the materials, we needed to be flexible and "listen." As the creation unfolded, I adore that not all the materials were starting and stopping at the same point, some farther along than others, some behind; a true parallel of our relationship with God.   Chris Schoenwetter
When the liturgical art group shared reflections on the text from Isaiah, Jeff Rabe talked about watching UW football fans streaming into the stadium. We see in the news floods of refugees. In the image Isaiah gives us, people from all over "river" up to the top of a mountain, where God will show us how "to live the way we're made". For me, this is an incredible way to understand how we can coexist in unity without losing or diminishing our diversity.  Jessica Taft
~ Eldonna Hazen

Posted on December 17, 2013 at 11:26 am in Featured Content.

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