Through Lent with Images

Episcopal Church and the Visual Arts has opened a Lenten gallery "Word and Example" and one of my "rapid icons" (a technique I use in teaching iconography as a means to seeing what is to express what might be) forms what might be called "the last Word."

The icon is called, "The widow waits for justice." She is the widow who persists in knocking at the judge's door, and will not give up until her righteous claims are recognized and met.

The model for this icon is the African-American actor Ruth Attaway. I had the pleasure of working with her many years ago when I designed the lighting and took the company and production photographs for the Theatre Off Park production of Harlem poet Owen Dodson's The Confession Stone — a powerful retelling of the story of Christ through the lens of the African-American culture and tradition. Ruth, whom some may recall from her role as housekeeper to Chance (Peter Sellers) in Being There, played Mary Magdalene at the age of 86, still keeping witness, still waiting to join her Lord and God. Her fierce characterization struck me as so suitable as the subject of this icon, written late last year. Ruth died some years back, in a fire in her apartment building in Harlem. She too has joined her Lord and God, and if she waits for justice, it is the justice we all await, tempered with the mercy of God.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

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