By Colleen RJC Bratton, 2017-18 Cascadia Artist in Residence
For the past nine months, I’ve worked alongside members of Bethany Presbyterian to talk about how the arts and faith communities can better support one another. Through numerous conversations, volunteer work and retreats with Fuller Seminary I’ve grown as an artist, friend and person of faith.
This winter, myself, Sarah Sawers and Kyle Turver asked Bethany congregants to answer the question “What is Sanctuary?” I then used the congregants’ answers to inform the large-scale installation seen in the sanctuary this summer. Many congregants described sanctuary as safety, security, refuge, and the presence of God. After reading these answers, I visualized the comfort that comes from the cradling arms of our Savior. These cradles are represented in the large chiffon pieces that are draped above the pews. Congregants’ answers to the prompt “what is sanctuary?” all depicted a space that they would hope to see. To me, these writings seemed like prayers to God. These prayers asked for Bethany to be a place of refuge and safety where they could come to no matter how they were doing. To pay homage to these longings, I incorporated these prayers by tracing the actual handwriting of congregants with colored pencil onto the fabric.
God’s replies to these prayers are represented with multiple iterations within the installation. Seen hanging within the cradles are brightly colored resin shapes. Pyramids, cubes, spheres, rods and discs symbolize the promises God has made to his people throughout history. From the creation of the sphere known as Earth, to the freeing of the Egyptians from Pharaoh’s grasp, God has delivered and blessed his people and will continue to do so. These promises are wondrous and mysterious, and so I thought it best to depict them with mysterious and precious objects and shapes.
Throughout the summer, the sun will shine through the windows of the sanctuary and will illuminate the room. To highlight the blessing of the summers here in Seattle, I’ve hung prisms in the windows that will cast rainbows onto the walls. These rainbows also symbolize the promise God made to Noah in the Old Testament.
When I visited Bethany this winter, I noticed that some of the stained glass windows on the north and south side still had their original warm toned panes. To pay homage to the long history of this church, I placed orange colored gels onto the panes of the other windows. These gels also create an even warmer glow within the sanctuary.
The beauty of this installation has been in its collaborative efforts. I feel immensely blessed to have worked alongside such a loving church body that has such a deep history. Having not only the spiritual support, but also the monetary support of Bethany has increased my hope for the future of the relationship between the creative and faith communities within our city. A huge thanks to the willing hearts at Bethany who have opened themselves up to this collaboration and to me as friends. I pray that Bethany would continue to grow into a place of refuge, safety, and sanctification for all people.
Join us for an Art Talk and Reception (with refreshments)
Thursday, July 26, 6-8pm … 6pm talk / 6:30pm Q&A – Sanctuary
Colleen RJC Bratton is Bethany’s Artist in Residence for 2017-2018 through the Cascadia Arts Residency with Fuller Seminary. Colleen is a visual artist based in Seattle, she primarily works with textile arts, sculpture, painting, and conceptual works.