The Way of the Lamb Series
Melanie Spinks, MA, MFA
The Way of the Lamb Series, 2017-2018
Mixed Media with Wood
The Way of the Lamb series explores the junction of Medieval and Renaissance Art, two eras that have long held fascination for me. The clarity, simplicity, and decisiveness of Medieval artists are qualities that I long to emulate in my own work. They had a reason for everything, a meaning in every choice - not just in the visuals, but in the selection of materials. The illumined flatness that abstracts space creates an attractive, otherworldly feel. A sense of reverence stands in contrast to our otherwise irreverent age. The divine realm is portrayed as completely other and set apart from daily life. The anonymous artists (called “icon writers” because they viewed their task as making theology visible) created works that served not as ends in themselves, but as signs pointing the way to deeper spiritual places.
At the same time, I am awed by the technical virtuosity of the Renaissance artists. With skillful mastery, the figure is wonderfully rendered in the space in which we live. Here God’s work and presence are portrayed as permeating the earth and accessible to humanity.
In this series, I seek to meld both eras’ visual idioms and theological/philosophical underpinnings. So we have a lamb, a long held metaphor for humanity in relationship to God as shepherd, who also enters the story by becoming one of us. The lamb is rendered realistically in the space in which we live. The wood overlay hearkens to Medieval art making in its flattening of space in order to make it conceptual – and here also is this work’s messaging. In the Middle Ages, the space is recessed to signify the divine realm somewhat removed from where we live. But here the space is brought forward, signifying this present realm in which we live out our lives. Wood is the material associated with humankind in ancient times, and metals are associated with the divine. This wood is tattered and worn, bearing the imperfections, wear, scars and blows analogous to the travails of human life. But a silver halo surrounds and dignifies the head of the lamb. The circle or tondo has long served as a signifier of divine space through art history. Silver is the metal of redemption whose gleam is further iterated by the understated and humble graphite finish. Working together they stand to signify that earth – including the stuff of our everyday lives – is also a realm where God is at work. Our joys - as well as the ordinary or even painful - are nevertheless divine spaces through which redemption is accomplished.
The series has expanded to draw from Medieval treasuries of the bestiaries with all of their rich symbolism.