Today’s Advent offering follows on from yesterday’s, taking another look at the biblical character of Hagar. And again, our image today presents us with an afterlife for Hagar that stands in stark contrast to her more traditional portrayals in the visual arts, where she often appears as an abject, powerless figure who remains at the mercy of Abraham and Sarah. Instead, American artist and urban muralist Van Arno gives us a powerful, proactive Hagar who is quite literally fleeing the biblical traditions that entrap her.
Van Arno’s Hagar is an incredibly imposing figure, whose positioning in this painting makes her look Amazonian in size and strength. Clutching Ishmael in her left arm, she races forward (a bit like a rugby player heading for the try line), her speed of travel indicated by the way that her clothes, beads, and son stream behind her. The dark clouds of her biblical heritage loom above, but we are confident that she will outrun them. Mad march hares leap around her feet, typically symbolic of rebirth and resurrection, fertility and sensuality. Although still a sexualized figure here, as she is in the Genesis 16 and 21 narratives, her potency and presence give her new life and empowerment, as she screams, at the top of her lungs, heading towards the future freedom that she so richly deserves.
Remember to join me tomorrow for more Advent visual goodness.