Artist Statement for 2014 Christmas card


Artist Statement for “Annunciation and Atonement”
Erik Maldre

Of note, this artist statement works within the sphere of the art itself. References touch upon qualities of the produced work resulting in conceptual thought. Blessed are we that God works not in concept or symbol, but in the real tangible means of His Holy Word and Holy Sacraments. The reality of his body and blood given for us in the present tense means of the Lord’s Supper is God at work pouring his mercy upon our sinful bodies. I thank God for His real presence. This artwork is a way to reflect God’s love.

The miter saw blade is the God-figure within the conceptual realm of this art. Its overall shape is circular, speaking to God’s eternity. There’s a sense of awe when this blade seemingly changes form as it spins blurringly in its poetic glide. A powerfully gentle hum accompanies the action.

The table of the miter points toward the altar in the Holy of Holies and the altar at the Lord’s Supper. The God-figure blade comes down to us at the miter saw table paralleled by God coming down to us in Lord’s Supper at the altar. As the cloud of incense billows around the altar at the Supper so does sawdust fill the air as the blade enters the wood.

Approach the miter saw blade incorrectly and you will suffer great destruction. It will tear you up with less than shreds remaining. Approach the miter saw blade correctly within the properly allowed context and things of great beauty and function will be possible. It is through the joyful and respectful function of the God-figure blade (conceptually, conceptually) that this art has taken form.

The miter saw blade is never directly seen in the presentation of the art. Only the results of its work are on display.

The God-figure saw blade crafted this wood through the use of the artist working within the parameters of time and space just as God inspired the authors of the Bible to record His Word through the historical parameters of actual events in history. The artist works similar in course as how pastors in the catholic Church work. That is as instruments of God who distribute His Word.

The wood itself carries important meaning stretching throughout salvation history from the creation of all that’s good and right in a world of God’s liking from loving creatures to preciously pure water to beautiful trees then onto the aberration of the Fall of man at a tree in the Garden to the redemption and restoration of man at the tree to which Christ was crucified.

The stain on the wood shows sin infiltrating man’s essence while the white paint is Christ cloaking us with His righteousness. The stain remains as we live in this world, yet at the same time we are declared righteous in the stead of Christ. We are sinner and also saint.

This helps provides insight for the use of unseen miter saws, the artist’s role in such, and the medium of wood, stain, and paint.

Now onto references in “Annunciation and Atonement”. God’s Word reveals His salvific plan throughout the events of history all pointing towards God’s redemption of the broken man through the death and resurrection of Jesus. This piece focuses specifically on the Annunciation of our Lord to the virgin Mary. Just as this Biblical account references other Biblical events so does this piece of art.

It is best to start with the Biblical text for this event: Luke 1:26-38.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

(Luke 1:26-38 ESV)

First, we find Mary greatly troubled upon the arrival of Gabriel. Historically, the sight of angels in the Bible meant angels delivering destruction as a result of sin and evil. Mary had good reason to be troubled. Consequences result from sin and now Mary was thoughtfully staring down her judgment from sin. The wood in the art is stained to show the sin of all mankind including Mary.

Stained Wood, Painted Wood
Yet, the angel’s first words are one of absolution and comfort for Mary’s penitential heart, “‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!'” (Luke 1:28). This faith gifted to Mary is now cloaked in the righteousness of God. Sinner and saint. White paint on stained wood.

The Arrow of God
How is is that a virgin conceives a child in her womb? Martin Luther famously said she conceived “through her ear”. The Holy Spirit used the means of Gabriel’s spoken words found in Luke 1:26-38. So this piece of art is carved and shaped with forms similar to an arrow.  Within the context of this piece the carved wood is God’s Word. It’s a holy arrow of God’s words traveling from above, downward into Mary’s ear. The repetition of the arrow-forms relates the pattern and repetition inherent to the chosen means of language.

Ark, Staff, Tablets, Manna, and Christ
The presence of God’s holiness now dwells in the holy pregnant womb of Mary. She now bears Israel reduced to one, that is Jesus. Formerly the ark of the covenant contained God’s presence. Within the ark was Aaron’s budded staff, the Ten Commandments, and the gold jar of manna (Hebrews 9:3-4). The long slender decorative appearance of “Annunciation and Atonement” references Aaron’s staff. There are also ten full, completed arrow-forms that point to the Ten Commandments. And the white paint references the manna which was “fine as frost” (Exodus 16:14).

The manna of which foreshadows the sustenance received at the Lord’s Supper, which is the Bread of Life, which is Christ’s actual body, which became flesh at the Annunciation so that it may be nailed to a tree for our sake, then delivered to us at the Supper. See how everything weaves together? Great joy!

Bronze Serpent and Christ
The arrow bands also have serpentine qualities which reminds of the Bronze Serpent staff, the event of which provided miraculous, merciful healing to those sinners who simply gazed upon it, foreshadowing Christ’s atoning crucifixion (Numbers 21:4-9).

Shepherd’s Staff and Christ
The staff-like shape hints at the shepherds’ staffs who were graced by the appearance of angels declaring the birth of the Savior. The repeated arrow-forms take on the soaring wings of the multitudes of angels filling the sky in unified concert (Luke 2:8-20).

The Cross and Christ
Within the arrow forms are horizontal bands that point outward. When this feature is paired with the overall vertical form along with the wooden media then a connection is made to the crucifixion cross where atonement was made for the sins of the world. The Son, the perfect one, took on flesh to take our sins and make us right before God. This is what Luther calls the “Blessed Exchange”. (Luther, M. (1999, c1959). Vol. 51: Luther’s works, vol. 51 : Sermons I (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (51:III-316). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.)

Christ in Flesh for You
The Annunciation is a crucial step in the execution of the Atonement because God became man so that we may be joined to Him in His atoning death and resurrection in our Baptism so that we too may die to sin, and be resurrected to a new life (Romans 6:1-11). Jesus’ body and blood is our connection to God. Without it we are lost.
And why celebrate the Annunciation in a Christmas card? Well, the church celebrates March 25th as the Feast of the Annunciation. (An alternate title for this piece was “March 25”). In those ancient times the day one was born was very rarely recorded. It was custom to acknowledge that the day one left this earth as the day they were brought into it. Early Christians recognized March 25 as the day of Christ’s crucifixion so then the day of Annunciation was established on the same day. Fast forward nine months and you have Christmas Day, the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

A blessed Christmas to all!

2 Responses to Artist Statement for 2014 Christmas card

  1. Matt Maldre December 26, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    Prior to reading your blog post, when asked by others to interpret your card, this is what I said:

    Given the title, “Annunciation and Atonement” this is a physical representation of both these events. God works in very real physical ways. With this image you can sense the reality of this piece of wood. You can sense that it’s carved, you can see the texture of the wood. The carved wood shows how both these events are very real.

    The medium of the wood represents Christ’s cross in the atonement.

    Looking at the shapes on this block of wood, you can see a pattern. There are two shapes, they alternate between shapes. A B, A B, A B, A B, A B. This shows how the two events of the Annunication and the Atonement are interweaved together.

  2. Matt Maldre December 26, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    Also, since the internet likes lists, here is a list of all the meanings in this artwork. Many people like to interpret this means that. So each of the items in this list gives a simple what means what.

    * Miter saw: God-figure
    * Table of miter saw: altar at the Lord’s Supper
    * Sawdust cloud: cloud of incense
    * Artist: pastor

    * Wood: creation & trees. Fall of man at a tree in the Garden. Christ’s cross
    * Wood stain: sin infiltrating man’s essence
    * White paint: Christ cloaking us with His righteousness. Faith gifted to Mary is cloaked in the righteousness of God. Manna which was “fine as frost”

    * Carved wood: God’s Word
    * Arrow shape: holy arrow of God’s words traveling from above, downward into Mary’s ear
    * Repetition of the arrow-forms: the pattern and repetition inherent to language
    * Long slender decorative appearance: Aaron’s staff. Shepherds’ staff
    * Ten full, completed arrow-forms: Ten Commandments. Angel’s wings singing at Christ’s birth
    * Arrow bands: have serpentine qualities of the Bronze Serpent staff
    * Horizontal bands & vertical form & wood: crucifixion cross

    1) The manna of foreshadows the sustenance received at the Lord’s Supper
    2) Lord’s Supper is the Bread of Life
    3) Bread of Life is Christ’s actual body
    4) Christ’s actual body became flesh at the Annunciation
    5) Christ’s actual body nailed to a tree for our sake
    6) Christ’s actual body delivered to us at the Supper.

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