Exchange No. 8

Keeping with my normal way of doing things, this blog post is a little after the fact, but what can you do, right? I'm very good at procrastination, usually to a fault. But this isn't a confession of my shortcomings, rather, I wanted to talk about this painting from when my Doctrine & Covenants class went to the BYU Museum of Art's current exhibit of religious works.

This painting, Exchange No. 8, by Ron Richmond was one of my favorites in the exhibit; the simplistic symbolism of this painting really caught my eye. The painting brings to mind a couple scriptures. First is Isaiah 1:18 which says "...though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." For anyone who has accidentally washed a red sweater with their whites knows how hard it is to bleach your clothes back to the sparkling white they were before the mishap. And yet we, who sin so often, are able to be made pure and white again through the Atonement of Christ. It's like the best OxyClean you'll never be able to find in stores.

The second scripture is found in Alma 13:11 and says "...they were called after the holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb." I've always loved this scripture. As someone who works with fabric a lot, I've bled on a lot of projects. When it comes to getting blood out of white projects it can be pretty tough. Especially when it's a larger quantity of blood than a simple pin prick. It takes a lot of work to get the blood out, but it can be done. The thought of washing something white through blood instead of large quantities of cold water seems counter intuitive, but in this context seems to make perfect sense.

I see the red fabric on the front chair representing the sin and the corruption of our mortal state. But this fabric is on the chair that has been toppled over. Through the Atonement, Christ overcame death and sin and I see that represented here in the overturned chair. The rear chair is draped in the pure white cloth and stands as a symbol of Christ's seat of authority. Either as King or Judge, Christ reigns because he was the only one able to perform the Atonement for us.

This is not just an intense game of musical chairs, this is a metaphor for our lives. We can either choose to trip over our sins, letting them remain a stumbling block in our lives, or step over the overturned chair and move toward Christ and his infinite mercy.


Biz said...

Excellent insight Steff! Nice painting, too.

Hannabeth said...

I love this painting too! (Though my favorite is his work "Triplus No. 3...check it out.) His works convey such deep doctrine with such simple arrangements. He forces the audience to contemplate the meaning work and by doing so, ponder on the blessing of the Atonement. I get far too emotional in art museums (e.g. I started crying in Monet exhibit in Paris) but this piece, along with his others, always moves me.