Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Return From Calvary

Jeremiah Scavo
Religion 52

This particular painting has been a bit of an inspiration at times. After spending a period of time in Jerusalem in 1890, a young painter named Herbert Gustave Schmalz produced a series of New Testament art. During his journey he kept a series of sketches portraying scenes from the New Testament that were then later published in an Art Journal as ‘A Painters Pilgrimage.’ This man, Schmalz, was nothing special in his time. Most would never hear of his work, but one particular piece, ‘Return From Calvary,’ is still inspiring today.

Schmalz did not seem to be a very religious man as far as could be seen. And due to his lack of fame it is quite hard to really know much of anything about him. He happens to be quite a boring study really. He was just an artist trying to make a living as far as the Internet portrays him. It took several Google searches just to find a bio. His life may not have been the most exciting thing to study, but some of his work is beautiful. His sketches are rather easy to find and are somewhat popular among art lovers. But, as for most people, he will never have his own Wikipedia page, or be brought up in discussion of famous religious art.

If Schmalz was no one special why would someone choose one of his works to be presented? The answer is quite simple really: his work is one of the most encouraging things to look at for one who wishes to examine and believe the New Testament. In “Return From Calvary” Schmalz portrays one of the last scenes to take place in the Gospel of John. This scene is not written in the Gospel, but is most definitely a possible look into the reality of the situation.

The artistic mechanics are very basic. There are three layers to the picture. The first shows Mary, the mother of Jesus, weeping her way up the steps of Jerusalem along with Mary Magdalene and John the Disciple. The second layer shows to other women looking off into the distance at three crosses on Golgotha where Jesus is hanging. The Third layer shows a dark storm about to take place, but in it is a hint of bright light coming forth. The light coming is a sign of things to come. Mechanically the picture is nothing special or provocative. Its simplicity makes it beautiful.

The focal point of this picture (this writer does not actually know how to determine a focal point) is not the cross or the light coming from the sky. It isn’t Mary or the ladies weeping in the background. No, this entire painting revolves around the expression on John’s face. In order to understand what he is thinking one needs to look into the events leading up to this point.

In just a short period of time before the events of this painting would take place, how many days is unknown, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the sound of praise. The disciples must have thought that moment was the moment of glory. They must have thought that the kingdom was most definitely coming and that this Jesus was to be the king. People shouted as he rode in on the donkey, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13) That scene must of have been brilliant. People laid down branches from palm trees and bowed before the Lord as he entered the city. Yet, somehow, only days later, Jesus is suddenly hanging from a tree outside the city with the very same people rejoicing in his crucifixion. How can this be? That very question is very possibly what keeps flowing the John’s mind at this moment. He saw this God-man, Jesus the Christ, raise people from the dead and do miracles no man had ever done, and now he is hanging from a tree with criminals on his left and right side. What good could come of this?

As John heard from the Lord, “Woman, behold your, son!” and, “Behold, your mother!” John then took the Lords mother as if she was his own and, in this portrayal, walks her home. Many readers of the Bible find themselves in the look on John’s face at one time or another. If one wants to believe what the Bible says they will come to a point where they ask, “How can this be?” That is another thought most likely strolling across John’s mind at this moment. He is looking off in the distance at that cross and wondering what happened to his Lord. Why is he not king? Though many modern people think they may know what John didn’t, the reality is that they are probably just as much familiar with the working of the cross as John was in this moment. What John did not know about Jesus kingdom was that it was one of righteousness. And since no one in existence, except Jesus, has ever been righteous since the fall, something had to be done in order for people to enter that kingdom. Because all have sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory and his angry wrath must fall down on that unrighteousness. And so we have in this scene the eternal wrath of God being poured out on his son in the place of those who would believe on him. God took the cup men deserved and poured it out on His own self. If one attempts to stand before the reality of this they will find themselves in the same kind of trembling fear that John seems to be in. They will not know what to say. Honestly the only response, for those who would believe, will be, “Thank you Lord!” And for most the response will be in disgust. For they do not want God, nor would they ever have anything to do with something loving enough to die for them. They continue in the fall attempting to reject God’s grace in a wish that they might be God. Only to find, in the end, complete destruction on one’s own eternal cross.

Works Cited:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Weimer Altarpiece

Aaron Dammann
REL 052

Weimer Altarpiece

This painting started by Lucas Cranach the Elder who died in 1553 and finished by his son Lucas Cranach the Younger in 1555 is one of the best examples of the ideas and beliefs of the Lutheran Reformation. The painting’s focus is to demonstrate the transition and movement from the old covenant to the new covenant through the death of Jesus Christ for all mankind. Another objective of this painting was to distinguish the Reformation’s focus of God’s grace from the Catholic Church’s focus of the sacraments. This painting is one of the best examples of the Reformation’s core driving beliefs that fueled the protestant movement.

Lucas Cranach the Elder was a faithful supporter and believer in the teachings of the Lutheran Reformation in the 16th century. He wanted to paint a work of art the stood above the alter, to remind those taking communion that the focus is not on the sacrament but on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. The painting to this day stands over the alter, at the St. Peter and Paul Church in Weimer, Germany. The painting shows the dichotomous relationship between the Law and Gospel in the Bible. The point of representing both the Law and Gospel was to show the focus used to be on the old covenant of the Law but after Jesus sacrifice is now on the Gospel and the new covenant. This focus on the new covenant and the Gospel was the heart and driving force of the Reformation.

Two prevalent stories from the Old Testament, the snake on the cross and Moses with the Ten Commandments, are shown in this painting. Moses and the prophets of old testified that those who were not able to uphold the laws of God and the Ten Commandments would be condemned to hell. This condemnation is shown with the figure of a man being driven into the fires of hell by death, the skeleton, and the devil, the monster with a club. The covenant of old in Moses days was one of works to try and uphold the law. The other scene from the snake on the cross was from an Old Testament story were snakes were sent by God into the camp of the Israelites. The snakes killed many people and in order for those bitten to be saved from death they had to look upon the snake on the cross which Moses had set up in the camp. The snake on the cross foreshadowed the coming of Jesus and his death on the cross. Just as the bitten Israelites were saved by looking up at the snake on the cross all people are saved by Jesus death on the cross for the sins of the world.

Towards the forefront of the painting is Jesus on the cross along with Jesus conquering death and the devil on the right of the painting with John the Baptist, Lucas Cranach the Elder and Martin Luther on the left. Right underneath the cross is a pure white lamb holding the banner of Jesus with the words “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” John 1:29. The simple message of Jesus as the sacrificial lamb for all whom by his blood we are all saved is the focus of this painting. This theme is also conveyed by the pouring out of Jesus blood from his side onto the head of Lucas Cranach. On the far left is Martin Luther who is positioned like Moses but instead of the Ten Commandment he is holding open the Bible with three verses written on it. These three verses are as follows: “The blood of Jesus Christ purifies us from all sin” 1 John 1:7, “Therefore let us approach the seat of grace with joyousness, so that we may receive mercy within and find grace in the time when help is needed” Hebrews 4:16, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so also must the Son of man be lifted up, so that all who believe in him may have eternal life” John 3:14. These passages from the New Testament testify to the fact of the new covenants replacement of the old through Jesus death on the Cross.

I believe this painting is a significantly clear statement of the Reformation’s focus on the grace of Jesus death on the cross. It is by his death alone that the sins of all mankind were forgiven and for that unconditional loving act we should be joyous. Jesus is focusing on the viewers of this painting inviting them to believe in him and what he has done for us sinners. Cranach’s feet point towards Jesus signifying his importance yet looking at us again as an invitation to Jesus. The focus is simply that Jesus death fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament. He fulfilled all the requirements of the old covenant and created the new covenant in him, through which all are saved by his grace.

Works Cited
• Noble, Bonnie. "Chapter 4 - Holy Visions and Pious Testimony: Weimar Altarpiece." Lucas Cranach the Elder: Art and Devotion of the German Reformation. Lanham, Md.: University of America, 2009. 139-49. Print.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Weimar Alterpiece by Lucas Cranach the Younger

Caleb Bailey

REL 52


New Testament in Art: Weimer Altarpiece

The Weimer Altarpiece is a painting by Lucas Cranach the Younger, son of the famous Lucas Cranach the Elder, whose works revolve around religion and mythological paintings. Both the Elder and the Younger are noted for their emphasis on the Lutheran Reformation and protestant focused religious portraits and scenes. However the current piece is one of the Elder’s much more traditional paintings and was actually finished by the Younger in 1555. Both the Younger and the Elder had a strong bias against what they perceived to be dogmatic catholic traditions and thus this particular piece was intended to shift the focus of the altar away from the sacrament and towards the sacrifice. The piece emphasizes the gift of Jesus as the center of the people’s worship. The painting currently resides in the St. Peter and Paul Chruch in Weimar Germany and (as indicated by its title) is placed directly above the altar so all who receive communion would appreciate the gravity of the sacrifice.

The painting itself is broken into a number of contrasting scenes which drive the focus from Old Testament to New Testament themes. This dichotomy is used to emphasize the progressive nature of the Reformation and aligns the Lutheran ideals with the New Covenant.

First and foremost, the center piece is a large picture of Jesus death on the cross. It dominates the frame and puts his sacrifice above all other elements of the piece. His side is pierced and blood is flowing onto the head of one of three men standing to the right of him. The blood represents his sacrifice and the movement onto the head of one of the onlookers indicates how believers are washed with the blood of Jesus.

Something interesting to note is the contrasting scene in the background. Above the heads of the three men, there is a group of tents with a snake on a cross-like beam. It’s a scene from Numbers 21:6-10 where people afflicted with a snake bite would look at the image and be healed. In a similar fashion, believers stand before the Christ and are “healed” by his sacrifice. In both instances, some disease was beaten by an emblem on a cross. The artists are portraying Jesus as an evolution of the “snake on a cross” concept.

Above and to the left of the snake scene, is a group of shepherds being addressed by an angel who is holding the words (very difficult to read but put in by the artist) “Glory to God in the Highest” as a reference to Jesus birth in Luke 2:14. In the forefront and to the far left is the open tomb of Jesus, indicating the fulfilled sacrifice. The tree growing on top of the tomb suggests that stone cold “death” of Jesus leads to new life as the tree grows towards the heavens.

Then, to the left of the cross, is a small picture of a man being chased by a skeleton and a beast wielding a club. The beast is intended to be Satan and the skeleton represents Death. Man is shown running away from Satan only to be confronted with Death and forced into the fires of Hell to the left. It exemplifies the hopelessness of mankind. But then in the left forefront, the figure of Jesus is wrapped in a cloth and is standing over both Death and Satan. He has emerged from the tomb behind him and has triumphed over mankind’s greatest adversaries. Again, this focuses on how Jesus sacrifice changed the people’s connection with sin and death.

Finally, the three men up front are contrasted to the group of men behind them. From left to right is John the Baptist, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Martin Luther. In back is Moses with the Ten Commandments and a group of Israelites. While Moses gave the people the Law, the men up front are demonstrating the change with the gift of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist is explaining to Cranach the Elder what the blood on his head means while Cranach the Elder is supposed to represents all believers. Martin Luther is then supporting the words of John the Baptist through two verses, John 1:7 and Hebrews 4:16, which declare the purifying blood of Jesus as the mercy and grace to help the people “approach the seat of grace”.

John the Baptist is also making a connection between Jesus and the Lamb through his hand gestures. The Lamb is holding a banner which reads in Latin “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of world” (John 1:29). John’s relation of the two suggest Jesus is that Lamb. This once again furthers the connection between Jesus and the gift of his sacrifice.

Also, it’s important to note that both Jesus and Lucas Cranach the Elder are looking at the audience. The eyes of Jesus are intended to invite the audience to believe in his sacrifice, since he defeated Death and Satan for the people. Cranach the Elder’s eyes serve as his confession, saying this is what he believes.

The whole piece then is essentially an argument for the power and gravity of Jesus’ sacrifice. It contrasts doctrine from both the Old and New Testament through related scenes and uses two prominent front figures to directly connect with the audience and emphasize the gift of Jesus death.

Works Cited:

Noble, Bonnie. "Chapter 4 - Holy Visions and Pious Testimony:Weimar Altarpiece." Lucas

Cranach the Elder: Art and Devotion of the German Reformation. Lanham, Md.: University of America, 2009. 139-49. Print.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Shadow of Death

Many artworks exist that contain an image somehow related to the New Testament, even if they are not showing a particular story. The Shadow of Death is one such painting that does not correlate to a story in the New Testament. We can obviously see that the male figure is Jesus Christ, and can see that the woman figure is Mary, his mother. The image is also showing a carpenter shop, which we know from the stories in the New Testament that Joseph, Jesus’ father, was a carpenter. However, we never hear of this scene taking place in the stories, but one thing William Holman Hunt wanted to accomplish with this painting is the humanity of Christ.

William Holman Hunt was born in 1827 in London, and entered the Royal Academy art schools. His earlier works were not very successful, but when he started painting religious images, Hunt became famous. In the mid 1850’s, he traveled to the Holy Land for more detail that he could incorporate into his paintings, which was where he painted The Shadow of Death which took from 1869-1873 to complete. The image was produced by oil paint on a canvas, and is approximately seven feet by five and a half feet. One reason Hunt decided to paint this particular image is because he believed there was a severe lack in pictures representing Christ being fully man. Hunt wanted to show Jesus, as he endured the burden of common labor, “still gaining His bread by the sweat of His face”.

When looking at this image, my gaze immediately went to the shadow in the left of the background. Clearly, the shadow of Jesus’ hands is placed to resemble his crucifixion. I also took notice of the fact that Jesus’ chest is bare in this painting. I have mainly only seen him in this way in artworks that actually portray the crucifixion. However, here we can see from viewing his body, that he is lean, muscular, and tan, not only implying his hard labor, but foreshadowing his death. His facial expression also interested me. In this picture, Jesus is looking up, gazing into heaven perhaps, which to me seems like another foreshadowing of his death. Hunt, however, wanted to show him in this manner to show his relief. The image is meant to be when the sun is starting to go down, so Jesus is finally able to retire from his day’s labor, and so he gets up to stretch and relax.

I also noticed Mary, his mother, was gazing at his shadow as well. Here, we are able to share in her feeling of dread when she receives this image of the things that are to come. Even though I cannot see her face, I can feel her surprise and sadness because of the way she is portrayed. One thing that I didn’t notice was the chest she has opened in front of her. Inside of it are the gifts the Magi brought to Jesus when they came to visit him in Bethlehem. The star shaped window over the right shoulder of Jesus represents the star that led the Magi. In this sense, the story of Jesus’ life is coming full circle, because we remember his infancy, see him as an adult, and get a glimpse of his death.

There are also many other intricate details in this painting that foreshadow the death of Jesus. The first is the red fillet, which is something to wear around one’s head to keep their hair in place, which is at the foot of the sawhorse. This represents the crown of thorns that would be used to mock Jesus during his Passion. The fact that it is red, also symbolizes the red robe the soldiers put on Jesus to mock him, and the blood that he would shed. Another thing is the reeds that are standing in the left corner of the carpentry shop. These represent the reed that the soldiers would shove into Jesus’ hand, like a scepter, to mock him and then they would beat Jesus. This is found in Matthew 27:28-30.

They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head.

Some other interesting things to note are the shadow that the saw casts on the wall. It is meant to resemble a spear, to represent the spear that would be thrust into his side. Another symbol is the plumb bob, a weight used for measuring if something is perpendicular, which is hanging from the rack of tools on the back wall. The shape and location is meant to resemble the heart of Jesus. The window behind Christ’s head is meant to resemble a halo, pointing to his holy nature. The hills outside the window are supposed to represent the hills of Galilee, which points to Jesus’ ministry.

William Holman Hunt took great effort into putting many little details into this image. Overall, I would say this painting reflects on Jesus’ life and death. This image is meant to show the spectator the great sacrifice that Jesus made for us, not only in his death, but in his life. If Jesus is true God and true man, then he took on a great burden when he became human. He had to endure the same trials that all of us face, and I think this work does a great job of showing us just how much Jesus had to love us, if he was willing to endure our sufferings.

Jessica Burns

Stephen S. Sawyer is a nationally recognized Christian portrait artist. Stephen Sawyer was born in August of 1952 in Paris Kentucky. Sawyer is an American artist widely known for his unique and sometimes homoerotic visual interpretations of Jesus Christ, as well as for his business, "Art For God". His work has been featured in many magazines, over 400 newspapers such as the full front page of The New York Times, and news shows such as The Today Show. Since 1995, Sawyer has traveled to several locations in America and occasionally other countries sharing his testimonyStephen Sawyer started a business named "Art for God" in Versailles, Kentucky, where he resides. The first year of business Art for God only brought in three thousand dollars of business. Mister Sawyer has five children and a wife. To support them he did a lot of miscellaneous jobs, one Christmas he even drove a UPS truck. His wife, Cindy, never asked him to get a "real job" her belief in his artistic value is overwhelming to some. Cindy married Stephen the day after she turned eighteen and now thirty years later, she is still his biggest fan!

He chose Jesus of Nazareth as his primary subject for his artistic expressions. His spiritual art honors and also reflects the life and the teachings of Jesus Christ in a unique and over powering way, no matter if the setting is out of the New Testament setting or a more modern one. . It doesn't matter how Sawyer paints Jesus it is the same merciful love for all humanity of God that shows through.

I was taken in awe by Sawyer's painting "Silent Night Crucifixion", pictured above. The look on Jesus' face is what struck me at first. He looks angry and like He is in a dark world. His eyes are almost blackened out as if there is no soul in them. The firm look on Jesus' face is almost frightening. The artist says that this look is because of the sins Jesus was taking on as He died.
The artist’s explanation of the painting; My use of dark colors gives this painting a particularly dark, ominous and even morbid feeling, reminding us of the significance of the crucifixion. The lighter blue colors and stars in the background can be seen as a glimmer of hope, foreshadowing the glorious resurrection that was to come. At that time, the Son may have cried out, as is explained in Matthew27:45-46. One thing is for sure. We have no capacity to appreciate the utterly horrific experience of having the sins of the world put upon the Lord Jesus as He hung, in excruciating pain, from that cross. The physical pain must of been immense. The spiritual pain, must have been even greater.
Sawyer wanted to go beyond the pain and the sufferings from the beating Jesus accepted before His crucifixion. Sawyer wanted us to see the pain Jesus suffered when all the sins of the world was thrust upon His soul. We can tell this because there is no blood coming from the crown of thorns on Jesus' head and we do not observe any of the painful cuts and bruises we see in other paintings of Jesus on the cross, painted by other artists..
When I first looked at this painting, I thought it was during the darkening time during the crucifixion, mentioned in Matthew 27: 45-46. Then as I studied this piece of art, I came to the conclusion, it was not about that time. If you look closely there are stars out in the background. If it had been the darkening time we would not of been able to see them. The darkness would of over taken even Jesus' being.
When Jesus cried out to His Father or our God, asking Him why He had forsaken Him. I think that Jesus may have been quoting from Psalms 22:1, where the psalmist wrote, "My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me...
We hear of the sins of the world being piled on Jesus in II Corinthians 5:21 and in I Peter 2, both verses say, I am combining and evaluating these verses, that He (Jesus) bare our sins, so that we (sinners) might be made righteous in God through Jesus!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Peace is Coming

Peace is Coming

The artwork “Peace is Coming” is a very extensive and symbolism-filled painting about the second coming of Jesus Christ. It was painted between 2006 and 2007 and represents everyone who has ever fought in a war’s submission to the peace found in God. It is a fine art piece, with the original kept by the artist, and many reproductions on canvas and print available for purchase. The artist, Jon McNaughton, is a devout follower of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints and has done many painting on temples and early Mormon Church historical events. He considered it quite an emotional experience to paint this picture, and he stated that at several points he chose to put himself in the position of a certain warrior or soldier in order to feel what they may have been thinking. I can only imagine some to the anguish and hardships faced by many of the warriors in this picture, and I think this approach would have greatly added to its accuracy. Several other pieces revolve around the End times, and the Mormon
belief of Jesus coming to the Americas. It also features the American soldier, as modeled after Cody Henscheid, another Mormon from Utah and member of the 101st Airborne who received a bronze cross medal for his bravery in battle.
The painting has an extremely large amount of work put into it. It has both literal future events portrayed, and a large amount of symbolism with the many various portrayals of soldiers and with Jesus’ figure. One of the key features is the amount of work put into the clothing of Jesus. The central portion of the robe includes a picture of the Tree of Life, it has seven branches, representing the seven dispensations of time, twelve pieces of fruit, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, and seven roots, representing the seven creation periods. The larger central branch represents the millennium of peace promised in the Bible, while the largest root represents the seventh day, on which God rested. There is also, an Alpha and Omega symbol on either side of Jesus’ robe, along with a winding Olive branch design, representing the peace that is in the future. Isaiah 2:4, one of the texts that inspired the painting, can be found written in ancient Hebrew around God’s belt. Jesus facial expression proved challenging to the artist who said he “wanted His face to be peaceful, yet you knew He was coming to do business”. Jesus was also quite Aryan, something we rarely think about unless challenged in our thinking of the fact. Many cultures chose to portray Jesus as one of their own or with similar racial features, despite His part Nazarene birth. Another verse, which was the more important to the theme and less the inspiration, is Romans 14:11, “every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess praise God”. None of the soldiers are higher than Jesus.
A further amount of rich symbolism can be found in the surrounding painting. Mortal enemies in real life are portrayed as docile to one another in the painting. A Japanese samurai can be found weighing down the WW2 pilot of the Enola Gay, whose guilt was said to be tremendous at the sheer loss of human life. The female Israeli soldier, according to the website, was painted in to represent all the women in the armed forces across the globe. Satan also makes an appearance, skulking next to the black knight, and moving away from God’s glory. McNaughton said he painted in Satan to represent the fact that whenever there was a war, Satan was not far off, both in nature and in responsibility. The World Trade Center’s wreckage can be seen in the background, which is a representation of the sacrifice of many innocents for the sake of certain ideologies. To the right of the background, three cross-like cavalry flags can be seen, which mark the sacrifice made by Jesus at the crucifixion.
This work is very significant to those who may have experienced the atrocities of war, or are currently serving in the Armed Forces. To me, it serves as a reminder of all the hardships Humanity has had to come through and that we will all face the same fate someday, even the world’s most fierce warriors. This painting can be considered a very extensive work of art about the glory we are to experience at the End Times.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


The resurrection of Jesus has been used in artwork many times over, but only once has Jesus’ face in the resurrection scene been replaced by the face of young man on death row. Such is the case in the resurrection painting by Kermit Oliver.

Kermit Oliver was born on August 14, 1943 in Refugio, Texas. He is the son and grandson of African-American cowboys. Oliver studied art at Texas Southern University from 1960 to 1967 and he was the first African-American to be represented by a major gallery. He is also the only American artist who designed scarves for the famed French House of Hermes. Some of Oliver’s solo exhibitions include: 2005 Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (lifetime retrospective) and
1997 Kermit Oliver: Painting, "Texas Realists: Contemporary Artists Exhibit.

The controversial resurrection painting is found at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Waco, Texas. The painting is 9 feet tall and hangs over the altar of the church. At first glance, the painting may cause some eyebrows to rise because of the nudity, but Oliver says that whenever Jesus is depicted at the cross, he is usually wearing very little clothing and he was not trying to shock people with nudity.

The controversy over the painting, however, is not so much the nudity, but the model that Oliver chose for the painting. The model was Oliver’s oldest son, Khristian, who was on death row for the murder of 64-year old Joe Collins of Nacogdoches.

Khristian was 20 years old when he and three other teenagers burglarized the home of Joe Collins. Collins surprised Khristian and Khristian shot Collins in the face with a handgun. Collins was also beaten on the head with the butt of the gun. Khristian was executed on November 5, 2009. He was 32 years old. The family of Joe Collins was present as well as Khristian’s family, including Kermit Oliver.

Oliver says that the theme of the painting was his son rising from his death. “It represented my idea of his being in the role of being redeemed and resurrected, and that's the point I was trying to deal with," Oliver said. He also said that he never condoned or excused his son’s actions, but he speaks from a parent’s unconditional love.

Oliver believes that since Jesus Christ was a condemned criminal when he died, the painting of his son’s face in the resurrection scene was just as appropriate as anything. There are white lilies over Jesus’ head and traditionally, white lilies are placed on the tomb of those convicted for a crime they didn’t commit. White lilies are also used around Easter time.

Regarding the details of the painting, Oliver explained that the twining shape of the white cloth is reminiscent of human DNA, the humanity of Christ, as well as the curtain tearing in the temple at the time of Christ’s crucifixion. The painting is laced with symbols within the freeze at the base of the painting where Christ’s foot is stepping on a serpent, a dove perches near the cock and grapevines climb across the stone carving. And in the stone carving, we can make out the twelve disciples.

Initially, the congregation of his church did not approve of the painting. They thought it was too controversial. However, after the execution of Khristian took place, the church held a vigil for the young man and they provided support to Oliver’s family during their time of grief. Now, the church says that Oliver’s painting is not going anywhere.

Oliver’s painting is controversial when first learning about it. But after hearing Oliver’s reasons behind using his son as a model, it actually does make sense and it makes for a thought provoking piece of art.