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Peace in Chaos



Laguna Beach

James Ellison - Peace in Chaos - Oil on Canvas - 16 Inches x 20 Inches - All Rights Reserve

Peace in Chaos is a key painting in our current Land, Sea, or Sky exhibition at Las Laguna Gallery. The following explores the reasoning and purpose for this incdebible piece. Land, Sea or Sky will be on display at Las Laguna Gallery from September 5 to September 28, 2019. 

Several years ago, my wife and I took a Mexican Riviera cruise. Our first stop was Cabo San Lucas and the southernmost tip of Baja California, called Lands’ End. It is where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean and the famous El Arco stands. At first sight of the arch I knew I had to paint it, but I did not want the typical tourist pictures of the arch with a calm sea. There was a storm way out at sea, and the waves were strong. So, I hired a small boat to take me out into the deep water to capture the feeling of being in 5’ waves. A single photo is of a split second, but our minds form a composite, so I set my camera on 12 frames per second and took pictures from the bottom to the top of a wave and back down. Later in Photoshop I combined them into one image to show what I remembered.

This painting is almost divided in half top to bottom, so the weight of the rock formation throws it off balance making it top heavy. To re-balance the painting I had to use two forms of left/right balance; first “Balance by Isolation” with the rock formation on the left and then “Balance by Position” with the inside right edge of the arch touching center and the left rock almost touching the left edge. All this to give a sense of chaos. There are also contrasting diagonals in the rocks and in the waves to augment this instability. Some waves lead the eyes to the lower right corner which psychologically means loss of control and death and others with the reflected light lead the eyes up towards the arch and the sun. Psychologically the upper left corner is the divine corner, and there I have placed a cloud to communicate the hiddenness of God. The 3 rock formations fill the upper right corner, the symbolic goal of life as if to block it. The time of day is just before sunset and the marine layer fills the sky. The sun gives it a pale orangish yellow-glow with the psychological meaning of elation. This is in clash with the red-violet in the rocks and the blue-green of the sea forming a triadic harmony. Though, the waves are chaotic, psychologically the greenish blue means restoration. The rock formations are jagged, and a boat could be crushed by the waves crashing it against them. Yet their vertical formation stands for stability and the subdued red-violet means compassion. The sun, the source of biological life on earth, is hidden behind the arch connecting it to the hiddenness of God.

We live in a time of chaos. Racism goes seemingly unchecked, self-interest outweighs caring for those in need, the desire for retribution outweighs the need for restoration. It seems the social fabric of our nation and the world is being torn apart. The very foundations of our world are crumbling; laws are being used to divide us, governments are being dysfunctional, cultural mores have become an impediment to loving one another and religions are failing, proclaiming hatred or offering heaven as a panacea.

As you gaze upon this painting you are in a boat in these waves, and there are choices to make. There is reason to be afraid and some choose to be paralyzed by fear, drifting with the current of the times to be crushed or swamped. Others choose to pray for God to intervene on their side or use God as an excuse to attack others. Some decide God does not exist or has abandoned us, so every person for themselves. Or we could choose to believe in a God of love who unconditionally loves all, calling all of us into reconciliation in a new creation. Yes, God though hidden is active, working through people who answer the call. And we answer the call by working against the trends following the reflections of the “Son” heading for the arch. This work of reconciliation is not out of fear of punishment or a need to earn God’s love, but in thanksgiving for already having God’s love in spite of ourselves. Thus, the feeling of “Peace in Chaos”, knowing God helps us in our work of reconciliation with all. 2 Corinthians 5:19.


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