“A picture can paint a thousand words,” said Maureen Putnam, explaining why visual art so effectively communicates essence and meaning.
“Even at a glance, a picture can soothe, provoke, teach and inspire,” Putnam, director of music and liturgy at Christ Our Light Parish in Princeton and Zimmerman, wrote in her parish’s newsletter.
“Art conveys ideas that words don’t because people see different things from different angles,” she added. “Art offers another way to share the Gospel message.”
For the past six years Putnam and Christ Our Light parishioners have used seeds and grains to create large mosaics, visual artworks that help “plant seeds of faith.”
“The idea for making seed mosaics began with parishioners Jim and Yvette Olson who had traveled to Germany, where seed art is more common,” Putnam said. “As a member of the liturgy team, Jim was looking for ways to inspire visual art in our parish. After they saw several pieces, they suggested that we create our own seed mosaic.”
Past themes have included “Give Thanks with a Joyful Heart,” “Bountiful Harvest” and “Peaceful Kingdom.” This year the focus is on the miracles of Jesus. Most years Putnam said she has created the drawing that underlays the seeds, but she also has worked with a student from St. Cloud State University.
“This year, through my son Aidan,” Putnam said, “I learned about Carlos Ochoa. Aidan and Carlos are friends and fellow students at Columbia University in New York. Aidan sent pictures of Carlos’ artwork to me and I could see that Carlos has a passion for sacred art.
“I liked his style and unique ideas. He knows that religious paintings and icons can draw us to the extraordinary power of God. Carlos has wanted to share his artwork in parishes. For October, we [displayed] his portrait of the Virgin Mary at Christ Our Light. And he was willing to create the design for our seed mosaic as well.”
Putnam also collaborated with Rosanne Fischer, a Christ Our Light member who wrote “A Better Day,” a prayer that seeks hope for a world in need of healing from injustices, neglect and abuse.
“The prayer became part of this year’s theme,” Putnam said. “As Carlos depicts in his drawing, Jesus performed miracles while on earth, his spirit dwells in us now giving us hope, and he will come again in victory to restore all of creation to him. As Christians we trust there will be a better day!”
For the mosaic project, Putnam’s team included seven people with steady hands to spoon the seeds onto the design laid atop a 4-by-8-foot plywood sheet. Seeds are not glued down. Creating it took about 25 hours.
“I enjoy the seed textures and colors, though I don’t know what they all are,” she said. “In addition to seeds found on nature walks, we supplement with bird seed varieties and grains like rice and lentils. Finer grains or seeds such as flax and thistle are easier to work with; fuzzy seeds can be used for hair.”
Last year, she said the group learned a layering technique — placing small pods that had cracked open on top of other seeds.
Putnam said people often invite friends to view the mosaic. Elementary school teachers have brought their students and have incorporated the seed mosaic process into their art classes.
“And Father Kevin [Anderson] will tie the artwork into prayers throughout the season to add to our worship and liturgical experience,” she said. “It’s a unique way to celebrate harvest that brings joy and pride to our congregation and our community.”
By the end of November, there’ll be a few places where fingers have moved a few seeds around, she said, so it won’t look quite the same.
“When we’ve appreciated it for a whole month, we’ll slide the seeds into a bucket and put them out for the birds,” Putnam said.
Sharing the harvest with birds is one more way people at Christ Our Light nurture seeds of faith.
Prayer: “A Better Day”
Our world today is in need of healing.
Bodily, emotional and spiritual ailments afflict our people.
We cry out for a cure.
Harsh words and injustices permeate our political and economic systems.
We cry out for freedom and dignity for all.
Even our beautiful planet suffers from neglect and abuse.
It cries out for moderation and harmony.
Jesus, during your lifetime, you healed disease of body, mind, and soul.
Give us faith to trust
in your redeeming power to renew all creation.
We cry out for A Better Day!
— Rosanne Fischer