Art and Retirement

If you were unable to attend the reception for Ben's retirement, or you were there and didn't get a good look, we presented Ben with a present on behalf of the church staff, elders, and body. Several in attendance asked me about the painting, and so I wanted to take a few minutes to address it in more detail. 

A Little Background

I love Advent and one of the things I enjoy every year is digging into all the art, literature, music, and liturgy that has been created to draw us deeper into the truths and wonder of the season of Advent. There are always absolute gems to be mined from Church history and church present. In 2018, I happened upon a wonderful poem by a poet named Suzanne Rhodes. Here's the poem:

By Suzanne Underwood Rhodes

Through the needle's eye 

the rich man came, 

squeezing through stars of razor light 

that pared his body down to thread. 

Gravity crushed his hearts chime 

and his breath that breathed out worlds 

now flattened as fire between walls 

the impossible slit 

stripped him 

admitting him 

to stitch the human breach. 

One thing some of you may or may not know about Ben is that addition to being an avid reader, Ben is also an appreciator of good art and literature. Ben's mind is like a vault: whatever he puts in it he means to remember at some point down the line. On more than a few occasions Ben has amazed me with his ability to recall things he's read in years past almost as if he's read it just a few days ago. I assumed he would appreciate this poem, so I forwarded it on to him and, sure enough, not only did he enjoy it, he'd actually read the poem previously. And, true to form, he'd also done his homework and shared that an artist had been commissioned to create a piece of artwork based on the poem. He even remembered the artist's name, Grace Carol Bomer. Ben spoke so fondly of her work and how he thought it'd be fun to visit her studio in North Carolina that it felt necessary to spend some time looking at her work, so I did. It really was wonderful art and, yea, I wanted to visit her studio now as well!

At the time, it was just another in a long line of conversations I'd had with Ben about theology, art, or pop culture. It wasn't until we were really starting to hone in on Ben's retirement that I started to wonder if, as a special gift, we couldn't purchase a piece of art from Grace for Ben to always keep in his home. After speaking to church leadership, I was given approval to contact the artist about potentially purchasing a piece from her. 

Not long after, I made contact with Grace and, true to her name, she was incredibly gracious in helping me purchase a piece of her work for Ben. I told her the story of how I came to contact her and she mentioned that it was possible to get a giclee print with hand-manipulated gold leaf on it of the Advent piece. Grace was unbelievably kind and was able to create the print for us and ship it out well in advance of Ben's retirement reception.

I can tell you that Ben and Kathy promptly hung the work in their home after the reception. I'm grateful that we were able to work this out and gift them with such a wonderful work of art to remind them of the Advent set in motion to bring about our salvation. 

Here is an image of the piece:

This giclee on canvas was reproduced from a mixed media painting of torn canvas on a 48" x 48" panel. It was part of my Christmas Invitational at the Asheville Art Museum and part of my Torn Veil series. Each giclee print is unique with hand-applied gold leaf.

The fiery torso that descends into our darkness is a covering of glory, a robe of righteousness. It was inspired by and takes its title from the Advent poem by Suzanne Rhodes.

If you're interested in Grace Carol Bomer's work, you can visit her website

And don’t forget to watch below as we say thank you to Pastor Ben and remember some of his greatest moments here.