Christ of the Frontier, 24"x 30", Contemporary Icon Mixed Media with 23 Kt GoldImmense and majestic, sacred and transforming, that was my prayer when I was creating Christ of the Frontier.

I see Christ in those four descriptive words, and also feel they represent the spirit of Wyoming.

Our beloved state is rugged and weather can be harsh. I’ve had friends and family over the years wonder why we chose to live here, until they came for a visit. They step out of the car looking up at a clear sky and breathe in the fresh air, and breathe out all the busyness of a life spent elsewhere. Suddenly the barren wide open spaces and the wind that tried to blow their car off the road, seem almost charming. They have been transformed.

The Rt.Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler commissioned me to create artwork for his Ordination and Consecration to be held on February 13, 2021. The Bishop -Elect asked for the art to represent Christ on the frontier. We discussed what needed to be included to represent Wyoming, and I then started sketching an image, fusing the holy with the wilderness.

Christ is the heart of the artwork, with God’s ever-changing Western Sky in the background. Included is the Grand Tetons, Bison in the grasslands, Sage with Indian Paint Brush, Eagle feathers –symbolic of connection with the Creator. Also Wyoming’s natural resources are represented by the mining symbol in Christ’s nimbus. There’s a map of Wyoming in the foreground with the buttes, valleys, mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, roads, cities, and towns. As I collaged the map on the wood I imagine traveling those roads, visiting the towns and chatting with its locals. Lastly in the lower left of the painting is what looks like a building that has seen better days, but this rustic landmark is significant to the Episcopal Church in Wyoming. The building is the Mission House, the oldest standing Episcopal Church in Wyoming. The stories the Mission House could tell if only the walls could talk. I encourage all who travel through the Wind River Indian Reservation to take time to visit this holy ground.

Christ of the Frontier is mixed media, a fusion of oil paint, 23kt gold, wood, paper, and prayers. Just as the Mission House still stands to tell a story of Christ on the frontier, I hope this Contemporary Icon tells a story of Christ with us here in Wyoming, transformed.

God’s Peace, Melissa Strickler

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