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The eye of the beholder


The Rev. Lauren Wright Pittman tells ‘Between Two Pulpits’ hosts she’s grateful for perceptive takes on her works of art

April 7, 2022

“Peace Without Your Walls” by the Rev. Lauren Wright Pittman was used as part of the Peace & Global Witness special offering.

While it’s always fun and enlightening to have an artist explain her work, the Rev. Lauren Wright Pittman clearly enjoys hearing what others read into her work.

That two-way street was on display during “Between Two Pulpits,” an online Facebook Live event. Watch this episode here.

Pittman, an ordained Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastor and the founding creative partner and director of branding at A Sanctified Art, created pieces for last year’s Peace & Global Witness and Christmas Joy special offerings.

Pittman based the first work, “Peace Without Your Walls,” on Psalm 122, which reads in part, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you … Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.”

She recalled waiting one day for convocation to begin during her time as a student at Columbia Theological Seminary. A flash mob of sorts “popped up out of nowhere,” she said, calling out the opening words to Psalm 122: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’”

“It was unexpected,” she said, a bit like the thought process that often goes into her work.

Walls keep things out and hold other things in, she noted. Towers are tall and narrow. They’re “not for habitation. They’re for observation or they’re defensive positions.” She wondered: Do those go together?

She envisioned a woman extending her arms, praying for peace. Then she asked her mother to stand on a chair and hold her arms out. “This woman emerged for me,” she said of the subject of her work, “and became the focal point.”

She chose white poppies as a symbol of peace, “to challenge the glamorization of conflict.” The flowers “grow in cracks in the walls as a vine would weaken a structure,” she said, “a nod to the work of God, dismantling walls and towers,” or ensuring “we have no need of them anymore.”

The title “Peace Without Your Walls” is “a direct reference to the text. There was a bit of cheekiness to that and the climate we are in” where “people are striving for a world of security and peace that looks different than what I think God wants for us. It’s a little confrontational.”

Her second creation, “Shining Hope,” is based on Matthew 2:7–12, the account of the star stopping over the place where young Jesus and his mother, Mary, were staying. They pay the child homage, give him gifts and then return to their country via a different route after being warned about Herod in a dream.

“The piece of the text that sticks out is the moment the star stops” after the wise men had been “chasing after this light source, a sense of hope that felt out of reach, a moving target,” Pittman said. “Joy is an emotion I often find elusive, but maybe this joy is reachable.”

In “Shining Hope,” the bodies of the wise men — there are three of them traditionally, a nod to the three gifts the wise men presented to Jesus — are waving, as if “they are blooming out of the ground,” Pittman said. “I thought of them as flowers growing out of the ground, the joy of the earth. I tried to capture the moment of them reaching for the star that has now stopped.”

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Between Two Pulpits

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Teri Morrison, Accounting Coordinator, Presbyterian Foundation
Gad Mpoyo, Associate, Southeast Region, 1001 New Worshiping Communities, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, thank you for continuing faithful witness. We ask that you continue to encourage and challenge us to accomplish your work. In the blessed name of Jesus. Amen.

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