Parish People and Places

Many of you will already know Meena Matocha as well as her husband, Jason, and her son, Joshua. You may not know that in addition to being a follower of Jesus, wife, and mom, Meena is also a gifted artist. This week I had the chance to sit down with Meena and hear about her calling as a painter, her work, and how her faith informs that work. It was a privilege!

Meena is a gifted figurative painter, specializing in paintings that depict the human figure. She is eloquent in articulating how theology, specifically the belief that we are all made in the image of God, informs her portraiture and work in general. Meena specifically named Edward Hopper, Makoto Fujimura, Robert Henri, and the writer Madeline L’Engle as influences in her work.

Having lived in China for several years, much of Meena’s work has involved by painting from photographs she took there. With color and contrasts in light and shadow, these pieces vividly capture moments in time, suggestive of how even the most quotidian moments are charged with God’s presence and grace. One of the most poignant parts of Meena’s story was how she walked away from painting for a time, unsure of how work as an artist fit with missionary work, only to return to it later and find the Lord using it to minister to her and to others. Painting, too, is ministry.

In addition to sharing her story, I asked Meena to respond to a couple of specific questions. Read the Q&A:

1. How does your faith inform or connect with your vocation as an artist?  
Being an artist requires a lot of discipline.  If I let it, it can easily slip into being part of my daily grind.  However, remembering where my ability to work comes from, remembering Jesus, requires the same discipline.  As I remember Him, I'm reminded that I am not merely a utilitarian being.  It's not what I do, or what I'm able to do, that gives me value.  It's simply that I am, that I exist, made in God's image, which gives me worth. In the knowledge of this freedom, making art becomes a spiritual act of worship, as does the whole of my life, down to the most mundane task. 

2. How has being an artist informed your relationship with God?  
I'm filled with gratitude toward the Father for giving me the ability to create beautiful things using oil paint and brushes, but I've learned that being an artist is much more than being in the art studio creating. It is a way of seeing. For me, that means being present and observant of the world around me, seeking to see things through the lens of things eternal, and then responding in service and care. I've come to understand that God has given us the arts to help us to see where heaven and earth meet in the present, so that we don't lose sight of the relevance of our humanity in the reality of an eternal existence. Being an artist has helped me to know more deeply God's grace and compassion, in my own life, and for the people around me, no matter how they're choosing to live. 

3. How do your vocations as a mom and an artist inform one another?  
It's funny to think back to my college days and remember how I thought the life of an artist would be. For all the glamorous ideas and dreams, I've found that what has informed my artwork and made it flourish is my quiet life...motherhood being the chief informant. Giving birth and parenthood are transformative. It is a daily breaking down, at times painfully so, but it is also a building up, with great reward. I bring that to my art studio and lay it down on canvas, trusting that when I leave the studio that day, I will leave with deeper understanding of that reward, of God's love and acceptance, especially as I am falling short. My hope is to carry that understanding to my son, as well as to those that view my artwork. 

4. How might we as your church pray for you in your vocations?  
Please pray that God would continue to give me the eyes to truly see the world and people around me through that lens of eternity and respond faithfully in service and care, in my family, in the community, and through my artwork. 

To find out more about Meena’s work, subscribe to her e-news. In the coming year, Meena will be doing a show at the Asian American Resource Center. Thanks to Meena for taking the time and for her work in helping us and others to truly see. Together, let’s keep her and her family in prayer!

In Christ,

Peter Coelho