An overlapping image of paintbrushes with brightly colored bristles from being much used.

I have a neighbor who collects fine art. Chris has made some judicious purchases over the years. Instead of buying a flat screen TV or golf clubs, he’d rather have something beautiful to hang on his walls. One year he decided on an outdoor sculpture from an artist whose work he had admired for many years. On the morning it was to be delivered, Chris invited me to watch as it was installed in his garden.

I was delighted by the invitation, especially since the sculptor was a friend I hadn’t seen for many years. I watched as John Merigian and his two sons carefully unloaded the sculpture from a flatbed trailer and then transported it across the lawn. They placed the tall, angular sculpture in the middle of a lush garden bed, its thin shape rising high above the ornamental grasses. The sculpture had so much personality that Chris asked if it had a name. “Contender,” came John’s reply. That sounded perfect for the giant rust-colored man who looked as though he were striding purposely toward somewhere important.

A few days later, when I asked Chris how “Skinny Man” was doing (my name for the piece), he reminded me that his name is “Contender.” He went on to say that since my friend John is a religious man, “Contender” must stand for Jacob, who wrestled all night with God.

Months later, I enjoyed watching how Contender looked as snowflakes arranged themselves into little drifts on his ledges and angles. That’s part of the delight of his shape, which is best enjoyed by observing the interplay between nature and art. Here’s how the artist’s website explains his works:

“their complexity lies in the relationships that emerge with the space, lines, silhouettes, shadows and each other…. the movement of the sun across the sculptures through the day is an integral part of creating constantly changing linear elements.... Night lighting adds yet another level of variation. Finally the element of snow in climates where it is present, further enhances the linear and geometric aspects of the sculptures.”1

It strikes me that John’s work hints at the way God acts in our own lives. As Paul says, “We are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10) Like the biblical Jacob, we become who we are by virtue of our interactions with God and the world he has made. God has fashioned us into his likeness, using both shadows and light to highlight his work within us so that we can reflect his image to the world.

1. John Merigian, posted at http://www.johnmerigian.com/





Originally published April 03, 2019.