The Worship and Arts Committee for University Presbyterian, in San Antonio, expressed interest in having new paraments that were contemporary works of art, and that would be used during Ordinary Time, I was delighted to be asked to work on design submissions and, then, upon the commission for the new work. As Presbyterian born and the daughter of a Deacon and Elder, I have deep connections to and respect for the Presbyterian Church, and the open-hearted, welcoming stance of UPC is admirable -- the congregation is diverse (same-sex couples, too) and the church is part of an active ministry to the Central American refugees in the San Antonio area detention camps, among other ministries. The SoL Center at the church, where I have had an exhibit hanging (thought February 27) hosts a variety of educational ecumenical meetings, lectures and actions.
These new paraments for the University Presbyterian Church sanctuary came out of the same “road” series that includes many of the pieces in my exhibit that I have had up in the SoL Center this past month— work inspired by walking sacred and ancient pilgrimage paths in Spain and Italy during a couple of recent summer travels.
Since UPC has a message of welcome that refers to a welcome to all no matter where you are on your spiritual path, the road imagery seemed appropriate. Both the lectern piece and the large communion table piece show roads that wind through and around trees, toward a horizon with a sun rise. The larger piece includes a stream with a fish. Both have pomegranates and fields of grain — all of these part of the Christian iconography: “I am the Way, says Jesus. The fish of the early Christians and the pomegranate, a symbol of fertility, abundance and grace; the greens and growing vines that symbolize traditionally the growth and health of the Church. Included in the pieces are textiles from Africa, Mexico, Guatemala and antique brocade from France. I hope that these paraments and their design serve as visual prayers for the community of worshipers.
As we worked together on designs, we realized that with UPC’s theme of nature for this Lenten season, that the paraments would also be appropriate this year for that church season. I incorporated a bit more purple in the designs and added purple wall banners to this end, along with another custom printed fabric of leaves and purple blossoms and grapes.
Technically, these are fused, raw edge appliqué textile art (known by some as art quilts because of their structure of three (plus) stitched layers. I call my art textile collages, since the process is much like making a paper collage: cutting shapes, “glueing” them down (in my case, with an iron-on fusible web) and stitching by hand and machine to add detail and durability. I use a combination of recycled commercial fabrics and ethnic fabrics, as well as fabric that I designed on my iPad and had printed commercially through a print-on-demand online service. Truly, these are a meeting of high touch and high tech!