Heart of Light
“In Principio Erat Verbum”
(“In the Beginning Was the Word”)
This textile collage was commissioned by Librarian Dr. Channing Jeschke for the Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University. It hangs in the Rollins Reading Room as an artistic focal point.
The piece is constructed of finely made natural materials—silk, wool, and cotton—and is accented with chunks of stained glass. It measures 36” X 126”. These materials are enhanced with painting and dye techniques. The work is further embellished and constructed by hand and machine stitching.
The motto of the Candler School of Theology, “In principio erat verbum,” provides the organizing inspiration for the design. From a dark blue-black velvet background emerges several Christian symbols. A bright starburst depicting creative energy first attracts attention, inviting us to meditate on the meaning of the motto. The points of the star, painted and stitched, begin to take on the yellow, red, and gold of fire and light. Centered in the star on pure white wool are three blood red chunks of fiery glass. The star is composed of two overlapping and extended squares, traditionally interpreted as the coming together of heaven and earth in creative union. Extending from the cardinal points of the star is a green cross, green being the color of hope and nature. This motif also finds expression in the vines stitched upon the cross. Arching over the cross and star, the blue arch echoes the shape of the marble Romanesque arches of the building, while recalling the arch of heaven. These figures are placed on a bright fuscia silk mandorla or almond shaped ground created by the intersection of two circles. The mandorla is an ancient frame often used for the Christ and Mary as well as saints and other holy figures.
The opening words of the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word,” are interpreted here in light of the Genesis creation story. Light emerged out of darkness, and the natural and spiritual worlds are called into being.
This is perhaps the first of my extensive use of green crosses as a reinterpretation of traditional cross theology toward a more ecological and nature-based vision.