Seasoned Threads

dove You may have noticed…you may not have noticed.


There are some paintings hanging around the City Pres building. These paintings are a body of work I just finished, entitled, “Seasoned Threads.”

For the most part, I really, really, really dislike talking about my work. I don’t want the words I use to be limiting or fall short… But I am also trying to grow up a little and and since y’all are living with these paintings, I’m going to write about them for the next several weeks.

It’s a very strange thing to make something, to watch it come to life before you and not necessarily understand all that is unfolding. It probably sounds ridiculous to you, but I hardly ever fully understand my work as an artist. There are things that are indisputable, that I know exist within a piece. For example, I know that these paintings are born from intense longing and pain. This work is about prayer. It’s based on, “what is seen has been made from things that are not seen.” I know that each bird was chosen for very specific reasons. These are some of the things I know about these paintings.

But hopefully there is also room for what I don’t know. It’s difficult for me to make room for mystery within my work and within my faith, but it’s ultimately what I want.

The first painting in this series is entitled, “The Harshness of the Land” and is pictured above. This painting contains a dove carrying 5 birdcages over it’s shoulders. There is approximately 14 feet of empty canvas that precedes the bird, which speaks to the very long journey of this bird. The feet of the bird are red to indicate that when the earth is trod, the feet are wounded by the harshness of the land. Many have been bothered by this painting, remarking on how sad the bird seems. The bird is obviously tired, worn and certainly wounded, BUT he carries over his shoulder the thing that was always intended to constrain him, to inhibit his freedom. This bird wears the look of great victory, the kind that comes as a result of great pain.

I gave a gallery talk about this work recently and someone in the audience asked, “You aren’t the wounded bird, are you?” I’m not really sure how I responded in the moment, but I will tell y’all: I am most certainly the wounded bird. We all are really, as we all have been wounded by the harshness of this land. None of us are immune to the reality of pain and we all carry with us the marks of those wounds. But I’m beginning to see the things that were intended to confine me can be the very things that free me.

Erin Shaw