What's the Painting "First and Amistad" About?
SPOILER ALERT: Don't watch this if you'd rather not know exactly what this painting is about.
What is "First and Amistad" about?
Okay, so this one's for my friend Marcus. Marcus Sheridan is a marketing expert who recommends talking about your art on video. You can watch the video and hear my interview with Marcus at passionatepainterpodcast.com/episode58.
According to Marcus, some people are very interested in the meaning behind the art.
I'm putting this video up with a spoiler alert so if you don't want to know just what it's about you can skip it. But it's here if you want it. I'll let you know about the response I get.
Note: To protect the identity of the actual subject of this painting, I had the privilege of painting a lovely local model who was aware of the story behind the painting and agreed to bless me by posing. She was the perfect muse for this painting, but does not resemble the actual subject of its origin story.
About "First and Amistad"
Some of you know I often title my paintings after songs that inspire me. First and Amistad is a street corner named in the first line of a song by the band The Fray called "You Found Me." In it, the singer says he found God on this street corner smoking his last cigarette.
He confronts God about where he's been and God says, "Ask anything."
The song goes on with the singer demanding to know where God was during his struggles when he was waiting by the phone for a call that never came. He says all I needed was a call.
The painting shows a woman stepping off the ledge of a church window. There's a pigeon on the ledge juxtaposed with a pure white dove of the Holy Spirit reflected in the window behind her.
A close friend of mine took her life over a decade ago almost 2o years into our friendship. She'd been depressed all the days I knew her. I'm sure it was clinical in some way.
Over the years she'd call upset and I'd spend hours on the phone with her to no avail trying to pull her out of the dark.
Then one day in 2009, when I was living across the country in California and she was in New York, my phone rang and I saw her name on the caller ID. And I didn't pick up. I just couldn't take one more failed attempt to help her. I told myself I'd call her back. And I never got the chance.
So, I am not God in this painting. I know the song is about someone asking God for a call. I am the pigeon. I am the flawed creature. But the painting also addresses our perceptions of sin and brokenness.
Who's to say pigeons are "rats with wings?" Whose to say rats aren't holy?
And who's to say those who commit suicide aren't getting into heaven?
So this painting is about questions. It's about forgiveness. Not for the woman who took her life, but for myself.
In closing, I want to say this is not a glorification of suicide. It's a love letter to my friend. I know God loves her. And I hope she knows I do, too.