Painting by Andrew White (born 1968),
Painted in 2017,
Oil on canvas
© Andrew White Artist
Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside
The mother and brothers of Jesus arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’ He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’
Reflection on the painting
Today's Gospel passage makes for quite uncomfortable reading at first. It seems that Jesus is somehow ignoring His family. But of course He isn't. His family is described twice in this short passage as being on the 'outside'. They are indeed physically outside the building Jesus was in. In that sense they are 'outsiders'. This implies that those sitting in a circle with Jesus are on the 'inside', the insiders. The point Jesus is making here is simply that being on the 'inside' is not just a question of location or bloodline, but of relationship. That relationship is established by following and engaging with Jesus. To be a Christian is to enter into a new family, a larger family, where everyone must be seen as a brother or a sister. The 'insider' is simply anyone who follows Christ and wants to do His will.
In the art world over the years I have often heard about certain artists being 'outsiders'. The term 'outsider' in the arts carries both a positive and a negative connotation. On the positive side it can mean that the artist carries a certain rebellious streak, an aversion to the mainstream, which then gets celebrated. But in the negative sense, being an outsider can also mean that the artist gets snubbed by the mainstream galleries, art critics and collectors. Those outsider artists are just not part of the inner circle, which at times can be elitist.
Unfortunately many of the contemporary Christian artists are outsiders in the sense that main stream galleries or museums rarely show their work. A good example of this is one of my favourite contemporary Christian artists, Andrew White. Known to the inner circles of Christian artists, he wouldn’t necessarily be known by the wider contemporary art world. An ‘outsider’ to that world, but an ‘insider’ to the Christian Art world. The work illustrated here is a Pietà he painted in 2017, which I do think is rather breathtaking.
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