Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Sprinkle, Mark - VM - Corey Widmer

Mark Sprinkle: Either/Or
A Struggle of Color
by Corey Widmer
The painting Either/Or is inspired by the Jewish atonement rite of the Scapegoat, described in Leviticus 16. Two identical goats were chosen and brought before the priest. Lots were cast – “one for the Lord and one for the scapegoat” – resulting in one goat being offered as an atonement sacrifice in the temple, and the other being released into the wilderness, bearing away the sin of the people. The painting captures the moment of decision, as each animal waits calmly, unknowingly, the fall of the lot. Their respective fates are hidden from the viewer, although the abstract use of color and form in the background suggests the outcomes. Red evokes the blood that is required for the atonement for sin, the awaiting slaughter for one, while the vivid colors and textures that rise behind them suggest the freedom and open space that one animal will soon traverse.
The painting bursts with tension. Mercy and Judgment, Freedom and Bondage, Forgiveness and Sacrifice. The whole biblical narrative could be viewed as one momentous exploration of this struggle, as the God of Israel battles within himself over how he can love and forgive his chosen people while justly punishing sin. The painting captures this titanic battle effortlessly in a single frame. In one moment the viewer is repulsed by the idea of blood atonement that forebodes, in the next moment the viewer is drawn in by the calm serenity of the goats and the textured landscape that beckons behind them. Is this a tension that mirrors the perspective of God himself? Is this a tension that we sense roiling in ourselves? Deserving of judgment or worthy of mercy?
In the end, the viewer is left to wrestle with the tension – appropriately so, considering that the Old Testament narrative never offers a conclusive resolution. As for the painting, the single element that suggests resolution is the wide berth of background landscape that crowds out the stark red, almost subjecting it to a marginal position. For this viewer at least, this struggle of color proffers hope, as it reminds of the words of another Jewish biblical writer many years later: “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Bible text: James 2:13.
Mark Sprinkle: Either/Or, 2006, oil on canvas, 24” x 36”.
Mark Sprinkle is a painter, craftsman and writer living and working in Richmond, Virginia. His work was featured as part of the Gallery in the fall of 2010. In addition to painting and making hand-crafted frames for his work with his wife Beth, Mark regularly writes on the role of art as a medium of reconciliation in the science/faith debate as Senior Fellow Arts+Humanities for the BioLogos Foundation. Nearly thirty of his paintings and prints will be showing at Linden Vineyards near Front Royal, VA through August 2011. More examples of and information on both his visual and written work may be found at
Corey J. Widmer holds a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and spent three years in England as Study Assistant to the Rev. John Stott. He currently serves as Associate Pastor of Preaching at Third Presbyterian Church and Co-pastor of East End Fellowship, both in Richmond, Virginia in the United States. Corey, his wife Sarah and three daughters live in the Church Hill section of inner-city Richmond with a group of friends with a deep concern for racial reconciliation in the church who want to share God’s passion for the renewal and peace of the city and those who live in it.
More on the work of Mark Sprinkle, you can find here.
ArtWay Visual Meditation April 17, 2011, Palm Sunday