Updated: Jan 1
I was commissioned to create this painting for the event Gardening for Peace: Addressing Food Insecurity and Gun Violence held at Salford Mennonite Church in 2022, featuring speakers Shane Claiborne and Mike Martin. The painting is also a reflection of the ongoing work for justice and peace in the Salford community.
Making this painting was really meaningful. I spent weeks beforehand researching symbols of justice and peace and planning a composition that would reflect the theme of gardening for peace. This work invites viewers into a world where guns blossom into flowers, justice grows in the garden and the peace of God’s Spirit hovers above.
As a child, I loved reading books with rich illustrations. Finding hidden imagery in art has always fascinated me. So I welcome you to look for symbols of justice and peace in this painting. I hope this work will inspire each of us to imagine a new way of being in the world, to take action on behalf of those in need.
About the symbols in the painting:
The three fiery flowers in the foreground represent the Trinity, and the fire of God’s spirit that compels us to take action.
The guns hidden amongst the greenery represent RAWtools’ guns into garden tools program and our hope for an end to gun violence in our nation.
There is a garden growing with green vegetables, symbolizing the important work of reducing food insecurity, which in turn reduces the crime rate. There are “justice plants” growing in the garden, a reminder that without justice, there is no peace.
The Human Rights logo is also featured in among the garden plants, representing our desire for equality for all, regardless of age, gender, race, disability, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
There are traditional poppies with black centers in the flower garden, symbolizing our welcome for veterans and hope for healing from the trauma of war.
A black fist rises among the flowers, a symbol of racial justice originating with the 1968 Memphis sanitation march. The fist holds an olive branch, a symbol of peace and victory.
There is a turtle in the background of the painting, one of the symbols of the Lenape tribe, a reminder that we are on Lenape land and we seek justice for native peoples.
The image of Salford Mennonite Church is blended into the hillside. The intent is to not center the story of this congregation, but to acknowledge the work for justice and peace that has been accomplished here so far, and the hope for it to continue.
Behind the church, we see an image of a border wall that is falling down. This represents our hope for fair treatment of immigrants.
Finally, a dove hovers above the scene, representing God’s spirit which fills us with a desire for peace and inspires us to work for change.