Art and Reflection by Ann Laird Jones
Epiphany is about movement and intersection and angles and people on the move: incarnational theology in all its brightness. It involves a persistent star whose light penetrates the darkest corners and kingdoms. Rather than creating art involving three kings who look like Christmas pageants always depict them, I focused on the star itself, taking it apart, painting angles, shadows and color. I wondered if this persistent “star,” mentioned four times in Matthew 2:1–12, is best imagined not as a distant entity, but a very present aspect of our lives in these days after the birth of Jesus. “Home by another way!” cries Epiphany. “Guide us now,” cry the millions of magi/kings/people on the move every day seeking refuge, fleeing from terror, or dreaming of new spaces to live. I imagined the global cry of the star; its light finding new shapes and spaces.
Years ago, my friend Carl Horton created art for the 1993 “Home by Another Way” Youth Conference at Montreat Conference Center. His art, a daring series of mobiles made of sticks and poles, was suspended, magically, all over the auditorium, defying gravity. The mobiles silently moved and danced over our heads all week long. I still have the conference t-shirt, tattered, faded, torn, and it surfaces in my drawer at every turn. Somehow that t-shirt twists its way to the top of the heap, no matter what season, or however carefully I try folding the rest of the laundry, emerging just as Epiphany will do, right when we are ready to put everything away and start a brand new year. Even as the Christmas lights are already twisting and knotting in the boxes in the attic, Epiphany pops up, dancing, casting new shadows and angles into our faith journey.
As I painted the spaces between the angles of the lines of the broken-apart star, I imagined the colors and shapes swirling together in altogether new patterns. I took a new look at two paintings my daughter Sally Caulfield painted a few years ago. I carry these paintings with me on my own journeys. I set them up wherever I am staying. In each painting Sally took color, got rid of all lines, and painted movement. Suddenly I glimpsed Epiphany, not as a broken, angular star, but as the light from that star, where all the intersections and angles and shadows pierce the night sky and the daytime brightness. They bring Epiphany intersections into a unified dance of color and movement and hope, to that central place where Jesus beckons each of us to join the dance.
Rev. Dr. Ann Laird Jones just completed her 25th year as the director of arts ministry at Montreat Conference Center, where she wakes up daily rejoicing in the ongoing conversation between arts and theology. She has been a Teaching Elder in the PCUSA for 35 years, serving churches in Mississippi, Florida, North Carolina and Louisiana. She is currently in her 18th year commuting between Montreat, NC and Greenville, SC where her much-loved husband, Mike Caulfield, lives.