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Saddleback Visual Arts: The Doors Project

“So Jesus said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

‭‭John‬ ‭10:7-9‬ ‭NASB‬‬

A few weeks ago, I participated in a group live painting event organized by the SVA (Saddleback Visual Arts) Collective at the Downtown Santa Ana Artwalk. I was asked by the collective to paint one of five doors, with three others painted by Ritchie Kong, Mandy Hinkle, and Steven Homestead, respectively. The community was invited to contribute their own words, thoughts, and drawings to the fifth door, which was hosted by José Lozano.

Why doors? Our community at Saddleback Church has been meditating on this metaphor, which is used often in the biblical scriptures, in arts and culture, and honestly, often encountered literally in our daily lives. How many doors do I encounter in a day?

This got me thinking of a door that has intrigued me since I first encountered it in Japan: the 躙口(Nijiriguchi), or the entrance to the 茶室 (chashitsu), or Japanese tea room, as designed by 千利休 (Sen no Rikyu). The door is small, and in ancient times, required one to not just bow low and crawl, but it would also be necessary for one to remove their sword, or their rank, to enter the tea house. Sen no Rikyu was a Zen Buddhist tea master who pioneered the aesthetic of わびさび (wabi sabi), a quality that while difficult to translate, is apparent when you see it: a noble poverty, gentle humbleness, communication of wear, passage of time, the fleeting nature of life, etc.

I would recommend reading Makoto Fujimura’s book Silence and Beauty to find out more, not just about the life of Sen no Rikyu, but also to contemplate a well developed exploration of art, Japan, and faith.

Sen no Rikyu firmly positioned himself in opposition to the 大名 (daimyō), or feudal lord 豊臣 秀吉 (Toyotomi Hideyoshi). It has been said that Sen no Rikyu was a Christian sympathizer at a time when this faith was being ruthlessly stamped out. There are a few different stories, such as the black Raku tea bowl and the stone lantern, but I chose to explore the story of Sen no Rikyu’s garden of morning glories, which Hideyoshi demanded to see. When he arrived at the tea house, the splendid garden of summer flowers had been cut and destroyed. When he entered the tea house, he saw that one remained, placed by his host in the alcove of the tea house.

While we can’t know for sure, these acts of defiance resulted in an order for Sen no Rikyu to commit ritualistic suicide. The tea room door was the last he ever passed through. My door is a meditation on humility and sacrifice; that some doors require more than others.

It was a pleasure to participate in this project. I’m looking forward to learning more as we turn our thoughts toward the doors in our own lives.

All photos by Christian Lee:


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