Art, Faith & Therapy

Olive groves have been on my mind.  Painting them, reading about them, thinking of Jesus in the olive grove of Gethsemane.  I don’t know if Gethsemane was an olive grove, but being on the Mount of Olives, one sure would think so.  It all started when I was reading Remember Me, a Novella about Finding our Way to the Cross by Sharon Garlough Brown.  It is a beautiful novella about finding Jesus, Lent, art, and mental illness.  Wren is a character fascinated with Vincent VanGogh and his art, as well as his struggles. One of the joys of reading a novel these days is when a piece of art is referenced, you can actually look it up without a trip to the library (yep, I am old enough to have researched at the library).

So while I read, I ended up looking at paintings of Van Gogh’s Olive groves.  I assume (or didn’t listen well in art history) and always thought he painted olive groves because he was surrounded by them in France.  While Van Gogh painted the olive groves that grew near the asylum where he lived in France, he also painted a series of olive groves that were about Christ in Gethsemane. 

Painting itself is therapy for me.  I got back into painting when I broke my right arm 2 years ago, and part of my physical therapy was to try painting, something I had not done much since college.  So I painted, with my broken arm, 15 to 20 minutes at a time.  It built the much needed muscles in my arm, and soon I was able to paint for longer periods of time (AND get back to making jewelry!).  I remembered how much the act of painting is also therapy for my soul.  I like to paint . . . even if no one but me ever sees what I painted.  

My arm is now healed, and I keep an easel in the piano room. I paint when I can, often when I need to process thoughts or feelings.  So after reading Remember Me, I decided to paint an olive grove. Thanks to Google, I was able to look at some photos of actual olive groves (not a lot of olive groves here in Minnesota).

My painting was a prayer, a therapeutic process and now, since I have stepped away, it has become food for thought.  It is always interesting to see what you created that you did not intend.   When art is prayer, the answer is sometimes in what you painted. And at other times, the question is in what you painted.

So as I look at my olive grove, I see that we - the viewer - are in the rather dark foreground.  There is light - sunshine - but we’re not in it; life can be that way.  The surprise for me is the fence at the back of the grove.  Truth be told, it was in one of the photos I looked at, but why did I paint it?  More importantly, why does that fence give me such comfort in a shadowy season? I ponder that often as I walk by my painting.  While I would like the answer, I am learning to lean in to the question . . . to live in the mysteries of a life filled with shadows as well as sunshine.

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