Emily Zacek Part 4: Chapel Paintings – Exodus Series

If It Weren’t for Your Mama, 2022, oil on canvas, 20×16 inches

During the Spring of 2022, I have continued my position as Campus Chapel Visual Arts Coordinator. The themes for the Spring chapel services have come from the book of Exodus. The first painting in the series, If it Weren’t for Your Mama, is representative of Exodus 2:1-10. Here, Pharoah’s daughter is opening the woven basket that contains baby Moses while his birth mother watches from the distance.

I AM, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 20×16 inches

To capture themes from Exodus chapters 3 and 4, I painted I AM – an abstract depiction of the burning bush from which God spoke to Moses. Within this piece, my goal was to reveal God’s name, nature, and promises. Using text, I wanted to communicate God’s empowerment of ordinary people for divine purposes through God’s interaction with Moses in chapter 4.

The Exodus and Deliverance, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 20×16 inches

The Exodus and Deliverance depicts scenes from Exodus 12, 14, and 15. On the left of the canvas are three important parts of the Passover: a doorframe painted with lambs’ blood, a stack of unleavened bread, and a row of homes being passed by the angel of death. These elements can be found in Exodus 12. The scene on the right side of the painting illustrates Moses parting the Red Sea. This pivotal scene is representative of the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt’s oppression.

Rest in God’s Provision, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 20×16 inches

Exodus 16 follows the Israelite’s escape from Egypt and shows God’s provision and grace, giving them manna in the form of coriander-like dew on the grass regardless of their disobedience and doubt. In this same passage, God emphasizes the importance of rest and observing the Sabbath. With the goal of creating a contemporary scene with these elements in mind, I painted a person resting in grass with coriander flowers. Surrounding the figure, I paraphrased Exodus 16 and 20, writing, “The Lord has given you the Sabbath. Everyone has just as much as they need. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. The Lord blessed the Sabbath and made it holy.”

Hope of Resurrection, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 20×16 inches

In praying and processing about what I would paint for the chapel’s Easter message, I felt God clearly pushing me toward a tribute to Ukraine. It would be foolish not to reflect on Jesus’s death and resurrection in the context of Ukraine’s pain during this time. I know that I, along with many other students and faculty, have been desperately grieving for our brothers and sisters suffering so deeply during this war. It felt necessary to paint with this in mind. 

This piece reflects on the Easter message of Christ’s victory over death while also interpreting it as a metaphor for hope in Ukraine in the midst of all this death and sorrow. Sun beams extend beyond the storm clouds in the sky, reflecting the colors of Ukraine’s flag. I painted this piece on Good Friday, realizing the relationship between this day – when Christ’s followers wept for the death of his body – and the death being experienced in Ukraine. I wanted Easter to be a day of rejoicing over Christ’s resurrection and hoping for God’s intervention in Ukraine.

I AM Therefore You Are, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 20×16 inches

To conclude the Exodus series, I painted I AM Therefore You Are. In Exodus 19 and 24, God is seen by Aaron and Moses in a cloud covering a mountaintop. With this imagery in mind, I painted a sky of clouds that look peaceful and powerful. The text reflects God’s name, “I AM,” from the beginning of the series while also including the aspect of personal transformation through God’s glory and freedom: “Therefore you are.” 

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