"Woman Encounters Christ"
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68x80 inches, oil on canvas, 2020
Luke 7 tells the story of a Woman who comes to Jesus while he is eating at a Pharisee’s home. Weeping, she kneels down and washes Jesus feet with her tears. Jesus reprooves the Pharisees by saying, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
As I tried to picture this scene from the scripture of Luke 7 in the Bible, somehow, I kept getting stuck in “Sunday School Land.” White stucco buildings and figures in white togas on cushions clogged my imagination. One thing struck me—the fact that the religious people in the story did not want Jesus touching the woman. To them, she was filthy. I thought about the horror she herself must have felt about herself . I believe most people feel this sort of shame at one time or another.
That’s when a picture came into my mind. It’s a picture of sunlight in Italy when I traveled there as a student, of dappled hot sunshine falling through leaves onto the stones of a terrace. I began to picture the woman coming out of a night-time darkness, onto a terrace dappled in sunlight, leaving behind her dark regrets and the people who had enticed her and abused her.
Her body emerges from the night-time into the sunlight that melts everything away. On the left side of the painting, the rigid judgments and mean assumptions surrounding her life are represented by the the cold stones, the straight lines of the grout in the pavement, and the rigid patterns of the Pharisaical clothing. On the right side of the painting, the lines of the pavement break down and dissolve in organic growth as they pass under Jesus. Daisies, which symbolize new beginnings and purity, sprout out of the cracks and actually break the stones. Each of the Pharisees reacts differently to the Woman and Jesus. One is enraged, one shocked, one concerned, one humbled, one sneering. When the viewer looks at the painting, I want them to think, which one will I be in my life?
2000 years later, people all over the world still read what this woman did in that one moment. In that same moment, Jesus transcended all the norms and prejudices of the culture of that time. His face is unshaven, to set him apart from the pharisees and show his comparative youth. It also shows how Jesus diverged from strict adherence to Pharisaical law, and foreshadows the new covenant that will transcend it. Jesus’ hand hovers near the woman’s head but retains a tender respect for her by not touching her.
Text carved on the frame:
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven, as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
-from Luke 7
*Special thanks to Mike McCue from Cheadles in Asheville, NC for engraving the wood.