Rest in Piece
By Tom Wachunas
“…We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord...”
-2 Corinthians 5: 7-8
Here’s a quick story about my newest artwork. More accurately, an old work made new. A resurrection, really.
The original was made at least several years ago – one of my paint-stiffened found clothing concoctions – intended to be about salvation, or redemption, or forgiveness. Maybe all three. I can’t even remember the original title, only that I was never satisfied with the thing, and considered it unresolved. A failure, in fact, or, if you will, a sin. There, I’ve confessed.
But lately it’s been calling to be corrected, to be made worthy of forgiveness and offered up for re-consideration. So the born-again title is (in Latin) “Requiescat in Pace (Rest in Peace).”
For several days I kept looking at the old painting propped up in my studio, once every few hours or so, brooding and wondering and pacing around the thing, knowing it wanted, it required, it demanded, then commanded action on my part.
Then a strange thing happened. A memory. A stern-faced Dominican nun was wagging a finger in the faces of her second-grade students. Her lips curled into a half-smile, half- snarl, one eyebrow arched heavenward. Her raspy voice was urgent. She blurted, “Every time you sin, you put Jesus right back up on that cross and he bleeds all over again!”
Well, Sister, there’s another fine mess you’d gotten me into. I don’t remember how many childhood years passed with her words still branded and smoldering on the fleshy tablet of my heart. My brain was bloated with gruesome pictures of Jesus, afloat somewhere in the meta-whatever, screaming in pain, writhing in his own blood every time I told a lie or said a bad word, disobeyed my parents or made fun of a classmate, called my younger sister stupid or a neighbor kid ugly, pilfered a Milkyway (or was it Nestle’s Crunch?) from the neighborhood grocer, or, horror of horrors, had an “impure thought.” ENOUGH!
Back to my painting. Time to act. So, just a few days ago, I washed my hands in holy water, so to speak - goopy globs of wet acrylic color. I pressed my paint-slathered hands down, hard into three places on the stiff, wrinkly ridges of the artwork. An anointing. ImPRESSionism indeed. I found my piece. And my peace. It is finished.