The Passion Art Walk was an event that ran all of Holy Week, last week. Christine Danforth, my section leader at Willow Creek Community Church and the great commissioner for the Passion Art Walk, put together a stations of the cross expedition in downtown Barrington for Easter this year. She called it the Passion Art Walk and commissioned 12 pieces of artwork to be put in 12 stores owned by Christians. These pieces all depicted a “station,” but the catch was that the artists had to focus on the hands involved in that station. With a map as their guide people flooded the streets of downtown Barrington all last week to walk through these 12 stores to see the 12 pieces of artwork.
In my piece, the “Hurting Hands,” I chose a dark black and white photograph with a close crop depicting only the hands, the crown of thorns, and Jesus’ eyes. With my black and white image I was after two things: I wanted to showcase the detail in the crown of thorns and black and white images do best with that and I needed the moment needed to be dark and subdued. I’ve watched The Passion of Christ twice and both times I was shaken to tears during the scene where Jesus is flogged and the crown of thorns is placed on his head. Through my image I wanted to show what this sacrifice looks like to me. Because of this the crown of thorns became my focus as the hurting agent, rather than the “hurting hands.” My close crop served the purpose of showing only the bare minimum to capture the moment because I didn’t want to distract from any of the elements. I needed Jesus present but I didn’t want any emotion I gave him to speak into the piece. Instead, I wanted to allow the viewer to choose how Jesus must have felt in that moment or to realize how they feel about that moment. I needed the soldiers hands to be present to show how the crown of thorns came about but, I wanted the hands to remain ambiguous because then those hands could be any of ours.
When I felt called to commit to doing a piece for Passion Art Walk I thought it was a mad idea. Ultimately, I felt God was asking me to take part in an ordinarily difficult project but as I just got news of my grandma’s passing this difficult project would be nearly impossible.
I met with Christine over lunch at Cook Street Coffee the day I found out my grandma died. She talked a lot about a meeting she had just had with Acacia Organics. Because of my tardiness she was able to catch the store owners just before they left for the day. It quickly became clear to me that God was calling me to do the piece the “Hurting Hands” at this store. But, honestly, doing a piece for the Passion Art Walk seemed mad. Ultimately, I felt God was asking me to take part in an ordinarily difficult project but as I just got news of my grandma’s passing this difficult project would be nearly impossible. So, naturally, I was hesitant to sign on because I knew I was on the brink of a very hard season. I told Christine I would pray about it and get back to her.
In the days following my eyes kept seeing the image below. God was asking me to trust Him and take this project. I knew I was in no shape to work on anything serious but I did decide to trust him.
The project was gruelling. After my meeting with Christine I was on the road to Minnesota only hours later. I spent over two weeks there to be with my mom (for my own sake as much as hers) and I was able to help with the funeral and settling some of the estate. When I got home I had my Studio Grand Opening to tackle. And finally, with only a few days left to get the “Hurting Hands” done I finally got to work on it. In my weeks away from the project I solidified my idea so all I had to do was set it up… right? In the ideal world, yes. Instead, I struggled with every part of the project. According to my plan I would have happened upon the perfect crown of thorns and done the shoot at night with my studio lights for the appropriate dramatic effect. Well, in reality, everything I tried for the crown of thorns failed and I ended up having to shoot in the daytime.
I made this crown of thorns with my own hands out of Buckthorn and I had my hand model, Joshua Hoegh, placing it on my own husband’s head.
On the day of the opening the verse accompanying my piece struck me, “Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head” (John 19:1-2). They “twisted together a crown of thorns.” As I made my own crown of thorns I suddenly became aware that these soldiers would have been hurting themselves by creating this crown to place on Jesus. They were so determined to hurt Jesus that they were hurting themselves, perhaps even more so, in the process.