To Be Inhabited

The painting that we see

Is not the painting that the artist knows.

How could it be?

It it is the most recent petal, not the flower.

We cannot see the iterations

Beneath its shimmering face

Or know the force that grew it here.

Jon Fagerson

The summer Artist-in-Residency at the Episcopal House of Prayer in Collegeville was the “most recent petal” in the unfolding flower that is my artistic career. I didn’t create a single piece of art during my eight weeks, and yet I was aware that creation was present and flowing through the space and relationships that surrounded me during my time as an Artist-in-Residence.

My “fast” from painting was a consideration I had while laboring over “To Be Inhabited” during Holy Week 2022. As it made its entrance, I was pushed to the edges of my makeshift studio and my capabilities as I worked several 10-hour days in a row standing over or kneeling next to the huge canvas on my dining room floor. My dialogue with the Divine was whiney and full of self-pity at times.

My body aches. I can’t do this. I want to do this—

I need your help.

Is this is the end of this road?

“To Be Inhabited,” 48″ x 48″ Acrylic on Canvas, April 2022

In the midst of this panting’s struggle to enter this world, I found peace as I consented to allow it to take as much as it wanted from me and then rest from filling my time with painting and let God fill the empty space with what God wanted next.

I received this poem from my friend Jon Fagerson shortly after sending a postcard to friends with the painting’s image. It is titled “A Painting Is The Residence Of The Artist.”

How did I miss the butterfly?

How mistake its thorax for a tree?

It is both; it is all one.

Art is representational of the spirit,

Appearing as for the first time at every viewing.

It bursts the prison of the expected.

So this insect spreads its diaphanous wings

Beyond the rigid confines of the frame.

The diagonal line does not have to be an uprooted tree

To challenge the presumption of verticality.

It is inhabited with energy and delight.

jon fagerson

Without knowing anything of my experience, Jon gave words to the movement it carries and invites. The mystery of creation is expressing itself to me more and more as connection.

We are interwoven in the mystery that is our identity in Christ in simple, universal movements.

So much like my art practice of cutting old and new watercolor paintings into strips and weaving them them into new possibilities.

Thinking about this helps me prepare to meet the next chapter of creation that awaits me as I prepare to arrive home in Scottsdale, Arizona the end of September.

This “bursting the prison of the expected” feels in tune with the massive remaking of our common ground that is taking place in our work, families, culture and places of worship—and I trust God’s amazing grace is at work in all that has been, is now—

And is to come.

Author: Julie Ann Stevens

My art flows from the patterns & paths of my lived experience which ⏤ like yours ⏤ are at once deeply personal and entirely universal.

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