The long white walls in the gallery bear images of loss, despair, and pain, but also of hope. The art exhibit “Seek My Face” by Peter Reitsma opened on March 3 at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ont. The series of oil paintings explores the ways God can be seen in others, particularly those who are disenfranchised.
“Most of the works somehow display how the hand of God is in the middle of where we live, even the dark places of bad choices, dislocation, and injustice,” explained artist Peter Reitsma. A member of Meadowvale Christian Reformed Church in Mississauga, Ont., Reitsma lives and works in Milton, where he owns and operates a graphic design and illustration company. He plans to retire soon and spend more time painting.
Reitsma is a man of few words, offering only a brief statement at the opening. The gallery labels are simple, revealing just the title of the piece, as he hopes the paintings speak for themselves. Some of the paintings create discomfort and others a sense of wonder, but the many layers in each of the art works ignite discussion.
The exhibit’s intro to the show, “Be Still,” imagines our silence when confronted by the mercy of a wild, loving God who inhabits our tears. The jagged rocks, from the crevice where Moses was hidden when the glory of God passed by, also contain the flames of the burning bush. The monochromatic piece “Desert Mother” captures the fervent wrinkles of a woman deep in prayer, paying homage to the ministry of the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the early church. Another piece, the “Army of the Empty Handed,” depicts empty hands clasping together to create a chain-link fence, raising questions of distribution of resources, ownership and community. Other pieces depict revolution, terrorism, and exploitation.
“Peter’s paintings challenge preconceptions and indifference. They challenge the way we were taught in the Western world,” said long-time friend Leanne Cooper, who introduced Reitsma’s exhibit at the opening. “There is movement in the paintings, a search for peace-making. The art offers a plea to engage, to shake off complacency and to see Jesus in the other.”