Bresnahan Residency Day 10

It's Sunday.  The pottery studio took a sabbath rest.  Apprentices Brandon and Colin started the day fishing. Cadence visited home in Minneapolis.  Sunday is Richard's weekend.  I had a quiet day to myself finishing the details of the Jonah sculpture.  Led Zeppelin seared the speakers for much of the afternoon and big band swing lilts around our ears this evening.  Colin is busy preparing this morning's catch for supper.

I have a few ideas for my next piece.  St. George slaying the dragon would be a great formal challenge and exciting theme.  He's one of those archetypal heros.  It's a picture of good vs. evil, bravery, duty, and chivalry.   George is the original heroic knight in shining armor saving the damsel in distress.  It's not a far leap of imagination to see this as a picture of Jesus saving his bride (the Church) by slaying a vicious serpent.  Martin Luther was fascinated with St. George as a boy and even took on his name as a secret identity, "Junker Jorge"  when in hiding.  As for me, I liked Batman.


1st Crucifix?

Approx. 425 AD.  Panel on doors of Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome.

The Jonah piece is also intended to be read as an allusion to Jesus.  The early church used images of Jonah often.  Parallels can be drawn.  Jonah was pushed overboard (voluntarily), Jesus allowed himself to be betrayed and tortured to death.  Jonah speaks of his descent into the depths of the ocean, Jesus of his descent into hell to proclaim his victory.  After 3 days, Jonah emerged (was vomited) from the huge fish, after 3 days Jesus walked out of his grave.  Jesus himself used Jonah's experience to predict his resurrection, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40). The parallels worked well in a young church for whom crucifixion was still an ugly reality.  It wasn't until the 400s AD that an image of Jesus on the cross emerged (according to current archaeology). Even then he just looked like a healthy guy standing in front of a non-crossy structure.

This sculpture presented me with the "Huge Fish" question.  Fish? Whale?  The distinction is a result of our scientific categorization and language.  I did a rudimentary internet browse on the question and saw a few frontrunners-Sperm Whale, Whale Shark, Great White Shark, some other undiscovered sea creature.  A Sperm Whale would have been a classic choice.  Think "Monstro" in Pinnoccio.  I came across an image on the internet of a Whale Shark with it's mouth wide open near a swimmer.  Easy fit.  I like that the species may cause a little inquiry.  I also like that the very name "Whale Shark" blurs the distinction between mammal and fish.  It's actually a "Huge Fish".

While I contemplate Jonah in the belly of a fish, I'll put some fish in my own belly.


Jonah Chapter 1

Jonah Flees From the Lord
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

Jonah’s Prayer
17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Chapter 2
1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. 2 He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
5 The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
7 “When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land