About this artwork, from the artist:
This banner has been created for Fifth Avenue Presbyterian’s fall, 2020 preaching series with a theme of ‘Exodus’. Being reminded that God goes before us at all times—even during pandemics—has helped me enormously during these months.
I was holding the vision of the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night from the Book of Exodus close to me when the invitation regarding this commission came.
It felt very right to design it and share it. I hope it will help others trust that God is present to us today in a time of great uncertainty and difficulty, a time that parallels the experience of our fore bearers.
The pillar was a gift given to Israel by God when they fled Egypt. It was meant to show God’s steady, unchanging presence, even as they left everything they had known and were led out of slavery. God had heard their cries and in compassion and mercy and led them to a new life. But trusting the unknown and a life in the barren wilderness was a tall order, even for the faithful. The pillar—seeable as cloud by day and fire in the darkness of night—led Israel and was their constant companion, reminding them I AM was ever near.
The right side of the cloud is set in a lighter sky and shows various shades of grey. The left side of the pillar shows fire in orange with highlights of yellow, set in a deeper-toned sky to be more like night. The center white is shiny silk and is meant to remind us of the light and brightness of God present in the cloud.
The foreground is meant to make one think of a landscape, which sets the context for the pillar presence of God. God was present to Israel. God is present to us, in the desert, in cities that tower over us, and every personal wilderness and joy in between. You are meant to be reminded of a journey or pathway along this valley between tall mountains, sea bottom or the streets between buildings, keeping the pillar ahead. The foreground color is symbolic in another way. The sandy brown to the right symbolizes the desert. The blue reaching high to the left reminds us of the crossing of the Red Sea, as well as the springs God provides in response to thirst. The brown symbolizes Mount Sinai as well as all great mountain-top and valley experiences, and the grey on the left symbolizes the grey of the concrete in the city of New York.
The foreground also holds the burning bush, a significant part of the Exodus story as well as to the Presbyterian Church. The illustration of this bush, burning but not being consumed, reminds us of God getting our attention. It reminds us of God’s call to Moses and us, as we seek to live on holy ground in the world. Not one of us can say ‘not me’ when it comes to loving God and caring for our neighbor. We are learning, in a pandemic, and at a critical time in the health of our earth, that loving our neighbor means more than we ever imagined, and that through it all, God goes before us.