Stephen F. Maunula

“On Fire”

This piece is mixed media, mainly oil pastel, with pencil and conte crayon. I most often paint with acrylics but my paints and brushes remain in Cochrane, where I usually paint with a friend, but now I cannot visit because of staying-at-home restrictions. Acrylic is a ‘forgiving’ media because if you make a mistake, you wait 5 minutes and then paint over it. With pastel, if you make a mistake, you tend to overwork it and things smudge.

While based on the “Walk to Emmaus” story from Luke, I have also been reading Naomi Klein’s recent book “On Fire”. It is a collection of essays and speeches on climate change. One chapter focusses on the effects of fire on the planet. While historically forest fires have been beneficial for rejuvenating the environment, the large wildfires in Australia, California, northern Alberta and British Columbia over recent years are not only devastating in terms of property damage, smoke and loss of wildlife but can also result in climate change. And changes to temperature cause more wildfires and extreme weather events.

The two disciples with Jesus on the road to Emmaus did not at first recognize him but then, after Jesus broke bread with them at supper, they realized who he was and their hearts were (figuratively) “on fire” and they understood his teachings. The fire of passion motivates us to take action on the things we care about and know to be true. But too much fire can become a destructive force.

I borrowed heavily on a couple 1889 paintings by Vincent Van Gogh for this work of art. On the left, there are columnar Poplars on a Hill, which are ablaze in autumn colour. In the centre and right is a Wheat Field with Cypresses. I am not sure if the road to Emmaus looked anything like the south of France. The figures in conte on the road and the town of Emmaus on the hill are of my own composition. So is a ‘burning bush’ in the foreground, symbolic of the voice of God, which does not consume with its fire.

May we have a new realization, during this time of COVID-19 restrictions, ofwhat is essential for us to live with others on this planet. May we pause, reflect and understand that all we need is “our daily bread”, and the love of family, friends and neighbours. Sometimes sacrifice of individual rights and freedoms is needed to restore and protect the common good. We do not need endless consumerism and excessive consumption. We need to give back. We need to love God and serve other people with our “hearts on fire.”