since being crook, i haven't posted regarding my time on the sunshine coast. during our meeting, a couple of people ducked out one afternoon to visit 'a local artist'. i found out when they returned that in fact they were visiting the widow of renowned indian christian artist frank wesley. i have known of frank's work for years, through asian christian art books, the "imaging the word" series and "seasons of the spirit". i had always assumed that frank lived in india!
it turns out that in the early 1960's a young nurse from meadows (near where we live in SA) went to india as a methodist missionary, to work as a nurse with dr geoff pike, another local from SA. her name was athalie brown and she ended up marrying frank wesley. then in 1973 they moved with two young kids to the sunshine coast, where they had to cope with the reaction to a mixed-race marriage (in Queensland in the 70's!). so while I was visiting my grandparents at caloundra, going to camps at Alex Headlands, etc, this world-renowned artist was making a meagre living in nambour! frank would paint all year, they would have an exhibition in the Anglican church hall, and that would give them money for the year. they didn't feel welcomed by the methodist church in the area. in recent years dr gerry wheeler, (now retired) UC minister in Nambour and herself an artist, became a great friend and support for them.
of course, i had to go and visit athalie (hence this story), along with alison whish who tagged along. this remarkable woman walked us through their very humble old queensland weatherboard house and showeds us painting after remarkable painting in every room in the house, then took us to frank's small studio where he had painted for years and years. (he died several years ago).
frank's work is now world-renowned and often published. his paintings are noted for fusing indian styles with christian narratitves (controversial at the time), his portrayal of women in biblical narratives, and his use of indian colouring and textures (painting on silk).
their son maintains a website of frank's work - the portal for orders of prints, licencing etc. go visit it here.
one of my favourite paintings of his is called "the forgiving father" - an extraordinary rendering of the return of the prodigal. the emotion captured in the image is palpable. we saw the original which had been damaged in a crate of paintings lost when they moved to australia (clearly he repainted it). there was also a huge wood cut of the outlines of the images in the painting, and i now have a print at home waiting to be framed. very special indeed.
it was quite humbling to spend time with this remarable woman whose life journey has been extraordinary, and to visit the home and see some of the art treasures of this amazingly gifted artist.
it seemed appropriate to ask cheryl if i could post her wonderful reflection on the story which she uses with an image frank's painting. i thought I'd send atahalie a copy when I write my thanks to her.
You’d never end the story by turning us away
so why do we think we could ever do anything that would stop you loving us?
You’d never end the story giving up waiting for us
so why do we live in fear of wearing out your patience?
You’d never end the story with a litany of our sins
so why do we think you look at us through eyes of judgement?
You’d never end the story giving us one last warning
so why do we live in fear that your goodwill will run out?
You’d never end the story not recognising us
so why do we think you don’t know the shape of our souls?
You’d never end the story with an outburst of anger
so why do we live in fear of incurring your wrath?
You’d never end the story making us give back all we’ve taken
so why do we live as though we have to repay you for loving us?
You’d never end the story by taking us back as servants
so why do we live as though there are limits to your grace?
You’d never end the story slamming a door in our face
so why do we live in fear that one day you’ll reject us?
You’d never end the story with anything but open arms
because the only ending you know is love