Reflections of Grace

12 03 2009



Joel Sheesley is a well known and respected artist who has taught art at Wheaton College in Chicago Illinois since 1974.  A large, though by no means exclusive part of his work has concentrated upon domestic life in suburban America.  Many of his works are large scale and, upon reflection, reveal how Americans fit into their everyday lives the belief’s upon which their faith is placed, the culture in which they live and the people that they love.

Sheesley’s “Winter Conversation” communicates an ever present grace in our lives, even when we are going through what on the service would appear to be the most routine matters.  Initially we see a couple’s reflection as they converse at the table with winter’s light shining through a nearby window.  The undisturbed snow communicates a beautiful simplicity and peace; the light, which creates the reflection, represents hope.

However, in this simplest of common events there is a powerful eternal truth present as well.  If one looks closely they will notice that the print of the painting on whose glass you see the reflection is, “The Portinari Altarpiece,” by Hugo van der Goes, painted in 1476.  The center panel of the altarpiece depicts the nativity of Christ.  Most of it is obscured by the reflection, but you can see a bit of Joseph (his sandal – off his foot because he is standing on holy ground), various angels, a bit of the shepherds, a bit of Mary’s blue dress, a sheaf of wheat, and various flowers, all of which have specific symbolic meaning in terms of the events and persons in van der Goes’s painting.

The message is clear.  There is a truth which connects the past event of the birth of Christ with even the simplest and most routine occurrences of our daily lives.  The truth of God’s grace is an ever present reality of our lives, reflected even in a “Winter Conversation”.



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