Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I've got a Title and a Few Stories

The Hiding Place, 16x20, acrylic on linen, copyright Jan Blencowe 2011

I posted this new painting over on my facebook page, asking for help with a title. 

I got this lovely comment from Linda ...

I [also] love the way you paint, Jan. In fact, looking at your paintings got me to start doing my own landscapes. This scene, although drawing my eye immediately to the light, doesn't let me linger there. Instead, my eye keeps going back to the darkness to see what may be hiding there. I would call it "The Hiding Place". You are always my go-to when I want to see how something is done in a landscape. Thanks.

Thank you for those kind words Linda and for the title suggestion.

I love the title The Hiding Place because it has many layers of meaning. First, I am reminded of the book The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. 

Cornelia "Corrie" ten Boom (Amsterdam, April 15, 1892 – Orange, California, April 15, 1983) was a Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor who helped many Jews escape the Nazis during World War II.
The Nazis arrested the entire Ten Boom family on February 28, 1944 at around 12:30 with the help of a Dutch informant. They were sent first to Scheveningen prison (where her father died ten days after his capture). Corrie's sister Nollie, brother Willem, and nephew Peter were all released. Later, Corrie and Betsie were sent to the Vught political concentration camp (both in the Netherlands), and finally to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany, where Corrie's sister Betsie died on December 16, 1944. Before she died, she told Corrie, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still." Corrie was released on New Year's Eve of December 1944. In the movie The Hiding Place, Ten Boom narrates the section on her release from camp, saying that she later learned that her release had been a clerical error. The women prisoners her age in the camp were killed the week following her release. She said, "God does not have problems. Only plans."

After the war, Corrie ten Boom returned to the Netherlands to set up rehabilitation centers. This refuge house consisted of concentration camp survivors and sheltered the jobless Dutch who previously collaborated with Germans during the occupation. She returned to Germany in 1946, and traveled the world as a public speaker, appearing in over sixty countries, during which time she wrote many books.

Ten Boom told the story of her family and their work during World War II in her most famous book, The Hiding Place (1971), which was made into a film by World Wide Pictures in 1975.

Second, I am reminded of the book Bridge to Terabithia which was also made into a movie.

Bridge to Terabithia is a work of children's literature about two lonely children who create a magical forest kingdom. It was written by Katherine Paterson and was published in 1977 by HarperCollins. In 1978, it won the Newbery Medal. Paterson drew inspiration for the novel from a real event that occurred in August 1974 when a friend of Paterson's son was struck by lightning and killed.

Bridge to Terabithia is the story of fifth grader Jess Aarons, who becomes friends with his new neighbor Leslie Burke after he loses a footrace to her at school. Leslie is a smart, talented, outgoing tomboy, and Jess thinks highly of her. He himself is an artistic boy who, in the beginning of the novel, is fearful, angry, and depressed. After meeting Leslie, Jess is transformed. He becomes courageous and learns to let go of his frustration.

Jess shares his secret love of drawing with Leslie, and Leslie shares with Jess her love of fantasy stories. With this new friendship, the two children create an imaginary kingdom in the woods near their homes, accessible only by a rope swing over a creek. They name the kingdom Terabithia and declare themselves King and Queen, and they spend every day after school there. In Terabithia, they are able to face their real-world fears, such as that of the seventh grade bully Janice Avery.

Those two books might seem like a strange pair but both remind me that God can provide a sanctuary, a hiding place of safety for us in times of trouble.  For the Jews hiding in the Ten Boom's secret room during the occupation the hiding place was an actual room. For Corrie her interior spiritual life and God himself was her hiding place in the concentration camps.  The fictional characters in Bridge to Terabithia, a work of fiction itself, reminds me that our imaginations can be a source of sanctuary and a hiding place. When our imaginations have been sanctified and made open to use as a vehicle for what is sacred and good we may retreat into our own interior hiding place within our imagination or we may express that sacred hiding place through paintings, drawings, poetry, stories, music, dance etc.

The name of Terabithia, the imaginary kingdom, sounds very much like Terebinthia, a Narnian island, created by C. S. Lewis for both Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Katherine Paterson acknowledges that Terabithia is likely derived from Terebinthia.
"I thought I had made it up. Then, rereading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis, I realized that I had probably gotten it from the island of Terebinthia in that book. However, Lewis probably got that name from the Terebinth tree in the Bible, so both of us pinched from somewhere else, probably unconsciously."
Bridge to Terabithia makes a direct reference to The Chronicles of Narnia, with Leslie lending the stories to Jess so that he can learn to behave like a king.

C.S. Lewis was very much a proponent of using the mythical, the symbolic, and the imaginary world of fantasy to get at and express greater, deeper, spiritual truths, and so it is with my paintings. Imaginary scenes and settings only loosely based on a real place and filtered through imagination, memory and spirit converge to express deeper spiritual truths.

Thirdly, Linda's comment reminds me that Nature herself provides many hiding places of safety for her children. Under brush and rocks, in burrows and leafy canopys many animals find safety and shelter from predators and the weather. Even plants find hiding places from wind and scorching sun to put down roots and thrive.  

We all need hiding places. Sometimes an actual place, sometimes a place within our selves, sometimes we hide in a book, or a dance or even a painting.


Roxanne Steed said...

and the restorative powers of these 'places of refuge' are so vital!

Joan Cole said...

Jan, you bring tears to my eyes with this post. I have read the three books to which you refer. Corrie ten Bloom's story is an incredible one that I suspect many people today have never discovered. It's definitely worth reading. What a courageous woman she was when the Nazis were trying to conquer the world. Thanks for the memories you evoked in me and the beauty you share with all of us.

Jan Blencowe said...

Hi Joan and Roxanne,

Do either of you have special "hiding places", that you'd like to share?


Roxanne Steed said...

haha- well I wasn't going to give it up until my memoirs were published! But I do find great refuge in my own art work, I can really get lost/immersed in it, even when there is misery all around. I can also find a bit of that immersion in the beauty of other artists work, or in the beauty of nature (the work of the ultimate Artist). But for more serious issues, (life & death), I take it straight to God. Maybe it's not so much a 'hiding' it is a 'finding' place. For the One you want to find you!