A Closer Walk

Oil on Canvas Board, 14”x11

From the series "Close to Home" from A Sanctified Art.

Scripture reference: Luke 3:1-18

As I meditated on the theme “Close to Home,” I decided that what makes a place “home” for me is people. That realization informed my decision to explore this theme through portraiture -- the depiction of people. The references for each of the depictions I’ve painted are actual Palestinians and Israelis. It’s important to me to bring this ancient story truly close to home as we consider the current geopolitical realities in the land of the Advent story. I encourage you to read more about the stories of those who inspired these depictions.

My depiction of John the Baptist is inspired by Abuna (meaning “Father”) Elias Chacour, who was the Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church (2006-2014). A Palestinian Arab-Israeli, Abuna Chacour is a well-respected activist and educator who established the Mar Elias Educational Institutions in Ibillin, which educates students of multiple religious backgrounds -- Arab and Israeli -- from kindergarten through high school. His life’s work embodies the courageous and prophetic pointing of a better way that I also see in John the Baptist.

John’s words in the text are so full of imagery that it’s impossible to fit it all in one image. The shape of his tunic recalls the base of the tree referenced in verse 9. In the background is an obvious path, recalling John’s clear instruction to his listeners. Share your belongings! Do not extort people! His counsel is so simple, yet apparently so hard to follow. The path leads to the sunrise on a new day, the colors of which allude to the fire of Jesus’ baptism. In his hand is a key, which is a symbol that you’ll see in my other works. For Palestinians, the key represents a longing and determination to return home from displacement.