The Theophany – The Latest in the Shadowbox Series
I’ve had a fairly productive winter creating a shadowbox series. This one is titled The Theophany.
The Theophany is the term for the baptism of Christ. It is a part of the Gospel that has always been interesting to me. I’ve modeled this collage on the Russian Orthodox icon for the event. It contains several important characters in the story.
I’ve found that religious texts offer the most when we look at the cast of characters and try to relate to them, especially in the context of your own circumstances. In the center is Christ, probably the least interesting and unrelatable character in the picture. Don’t get me wrong, he has an extremely important role in the story, but if you try to get to the meaning of the story directly through Christ, it won’t be terribly relevant (unless, of course, you can relate to being the Messiah).
To me the most important character is on the left. St. John the Baptist. Why? You should spend some time learning about him. He is, for all intents and purposes, the man who starts Jesus’ career. He is the Sam Phillips of the story. St. John is a burlap wearing, tortured ascetic. In many ways he was a mad man. A homeless man, ranting that the end is nigh, that the Kingdom of God is upon us. You get the picture and probably have an experience with such a person in your lifetime.
I have had a lot of experience with people with mental health issues in my family and professional life. I’ve spent a little time serving homeless people. There is a spot in my heart for those who suffer from this type of affliction. They are much more complicated than their symptoms. They’ve grown up too early, and have been shunned, forced into the shadows. They are unique observers of this world.
To make the Theophany more personal and relevant, I’ve used the image of Mr Butch. An icon of Boston’s Kenmore Square of the 1990’s. He was a homeless man, who could be kind and caring, and unpredictable. Though I never witnessed anything but kindness or indifference in his behavior, he lived in a world that people like me don’t understand and probably wouldn’t tolerate well.
On the left, I use two images to personalize the angels witnessing the baptism.
The first angel, on the bottom, eyes buried in an iPhone, is represented by the archangel Michael, the angel who kills Satan in Revelations. I see him as the busyness of theology and institutional religion. The archangel’s distraction can be viewed as you like. A few thoughts include the preoccupation of religious institutions with power interfering with its all but hidden power to lead people to salvation. The image is richer than anything I might ascribe to it. I’ll let you ponder it.
On top, I use the google icon for “you are here” as the face of the first angel. I direct the viewer to take up this vantage point in the image. To view the Theophany in personal terms, as though you were there witnessing the vision of the holy ghost that Christ experienced at the hand of St. John/Mr. Butch.
This and other shadowboxes are for sale here