Bethlehem Farm, Summer 2021
Bethlehem Farm’s mission is to be “a Catholic community in Appalachia that transforms lives, through service with the local community and the teaching of sustainable practices.” While a summer servant at the Farm during the summer of 2021, I practiced living out the cornerstones of prayer, service, community, and simplicity by planting sweet potatoes in the garden, feeding playful chickens, preparing firewood, and helping lead work sites as part of our home repair program.
One homeowner needed her home’s fifteen energy inefficient windows replaced, so I repurposed the old windows into "stained glass" oil paintings that reflect on energy use at the Farm. On one hand, using oil paint prompted me to consider the energy violence of the new natural gas pipeline alongside the Greenbrier River. On the other hand, using a window and light as a medium to illuminate the painting connects to the Farm’s solar panel initiatives. The community of forms prompted me to reflect on our collective energy practices and materials, and the aerial perspective reminded me that energy consumption and efficiency is a spatial problem. The stained glass medium considered the role churches can play in being effective energy stewards. Re-priming the frame reminded me that confronting climate change is a structural problem that needs collective effort to address root causes - more than just painting on the surface. Overall, these windows helped me to explore my energy culture in light of the Farm's cornerstones.
The Flow Between Us
On Trinity Sunday, we reflected on the limits of language in encapsulating the mystery of the trinity. While I grew up saying the sign of the cross with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, another way to point towards the relationships between the three persons is Love, the Beloved, and the Love that Flows Between Us. I brought trinitarian love to this iteration of the Returning to Water paintings.
Plein air painting is one of my favorite ways to participate in community. I enjoy setting up my easel on the breezeway in the mornings and evenings to paint the swings hanging in front of the pastures, bucket showers, and mountains in the distance.