This is part two of four blogs on my Archetypes series. Part one may be viewed here:
My fourth painting in the Archetypes series is an image of the adulterous woman. For the model, I used a friend from my choir in undergrad, mostly because of her red hair. I chose to give her red hair because of its reference to her as a “scarlet woman.” Her head is bowed because of her humility from her situation. She felt unworthy. Sometimes a church can make someone feel like their past is a barrier between them and God, like they are spoiled goods.
She doesn’t look Jesus in the eye because she assumes he will cast judgment and reject her, because the religious leaders have rejected her. Sometimes I have people assume that I am going to judge them, because other “Christians” have judged them in the past. Her hair forms a teardrop to symbolize her sorrow.
I followed her up with Nicodemus. He was a scholar and a very religious man, and yet when he was faced with a new idea in the personage of Christ he couldn’t quite wrap his mind around it. The Nicodemus discourse is one of my favorite passages. I knew what I wanted him to look like, and it took me an entire week of walking around looking at passers-by to find my model.
When I showed my mother this painting, she said, “I didn’t know they had glasses back then?” She’s right, they didn’t. I wanted them to show that the conversations in the Bible are not just old stories from “back then.” They are now. Nicodemus’ glasses are a symbol for the filter he has on his thinking. He translated everything through Jewish law and through tradition. Today we have many different Christian traditions. When, as a Christian, you come across a verse that does not agree with what you have been taught it gives you a Nicodemus moment.
In the painting, his head is washed out. Nicodemus was an academic so he wasn’t searching with his heart, but with his mind. He accepted Christ intellectually, and so his challenge was to understand the spirit of faith. He has a small highlight in his eyes to represent just a spark of Christ getting through to him past his preconceived ideas.
The sixth painting of the series is Martha. She was a hard worker, but felt under-appreciated. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with the way Jesus treated Martha. I think the key to understanding why he chastised her is her attitude for servitude. Yes, she was working behind the scenes to prepare a meal for Christ. The issue is that she expected others to match her own level of servitude, or at least to get recognized for her service. She was comparing herself to her sister, and judging her sister for not making the same decision that she did. As she rolled her eyes at her sister she rolled them away from Christ. Her actions were good, but her focus was not on what was most important.
Jesus understood that both sisters were honoring him in their own ways, but only Martha felt that her way was superior. As a Peace Corps Volunteer it is easy to fall into this trap of feeling like you deserve some kind of special recognition. Serving others is a gift that should be given selflessly and in love. Being upset about not being recognized for a gift means that it is not a gift, but a service to be repaid in appreciation.
In the image, the light of Christ hits Martha from the side. She saw herself on an equal level with Christ, while her sister understood that Christ is above men.
Thank you so much for reading through the second post of the series! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below!