Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Interpreting Zechariah Through Art

We are doing student presentations in our Prophecy at the End course now, and today Matthew Hanisian presented two paintings that he created as his final project. The class was extremely appreciative of this art, which interprets two texts from Zechariah. Please add your thoughts using the "comments" function below. Here are the two paintings (you can click them to greatly enlarge them):

Zechariah 2:1-5 (click to enlarge)

Zechariah 6:1-8 (click to enlarge)

The first watercolor is based on Zechariah 2:1-5, a vision in which a surveyor about to measure Jerusalem for new walls is interrupted in his task because the eschatological city will expand beyond its walls and its inhabitants be protected due to the personal presence of God's glory in the city's midst. The painting shows the prophet's hand in the lower left of the scene extending out to interrupt the surveyor. Class discussion noted that the finger (along with all of the many leading lines of the painting) seemed to invite the viewer into Jerusalem, into the locale of the promised personal presence of God.


The second painting, which interprets Zechariah 6:1-8, uses a mixed medium of watercolor and acrylic, the latter employed to create the metallic appearance of the bronze mountains in this 8th vision of the prophet. I think this mix of mediums creates quite a striking effect. Four chariots rush forth from between the two mountains (the cosmic boundary between this world and the Beyond), leaving jet streams in their wake. They go forth to subdue all forces in the world opposed to God's will and God's salvation. Matthew spoke in class about how he was inspired by the maneuvers of military jets, such as the blue angels, flying in precision formation. The new air force memorial near VTS has a similar overall shape.


The second painting is more "apocalyptic" and impressionistic than the first, more "realistic" one, yet class discussion noted that the two works function well as a pair or set. The bronze mountains of the second painting probably have their ritual counterpart in the bronze pillars of the Jerusalem temple (see 1 Kings 7:15-16), and thus the leading lines of the painting (the trails of the chariots) lead the viewer into Jerusalem and into God's personal presence, just as the lines do in the first painting. In both paintings, the swirling in the watercolor skies also appears to convey something of God's mysterious presence, perhaps the presence of the Holy Spirit.

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