In this collaborative project, visual artist Nicora Gangi, composer Jonathon Roberts, and vocalist Emily Clare Zempel teamed up to produce a multisensory response to Psalm 13:
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
From the Artists:
Meditations on Psalm 13- Pain – The Pathway to God’s Glory
When I suffered with intense loneliness, my former pastor encouraged me to use my artistic gifts to visually express my feelings of rejection, anger, sorrow, regret, unattractiveness, physical needs, isolation, grief, and fear of what may be ahead. These feelings are most of the ingredients that I recognize as part of loneliness’ assault against the soul. Throughout the creation of these collages I called on the Lord to restore my soul. With groanings that I could not articulate, I appealed to the Holy Spirit to intercede for me before the Throne of Grace. I found that these artistic meditations helped me in the midst of my struggles. The collages in this series were all created from paper magazine images. Some were scratched into and some drawn upon. The main objective of these collages was to see God as He was actually revealing Himself to me: through this psalm. Timothy Keller has stated that the Book of Psalms is one of the books that Jesus quotes more than any other in the Bible. “The psalms were not simply sung by Jesus, they are also about Jesus.” This is a truth that has continued to keep me in the rich study of His WORD.
Timothy Keller, Songs of Jesus (New York: Viking Press, 2015) 42.
Ever since Nicora Gangi told me about me her process of actively meditating on the Psalms through collages and color, it has lingered as an ideal and natural way grow in one’s faith and creative life. I’ve always longed for simple ways to infuse the Bible and creative activities into daily life, and I can’t think of a better example than Nicora’s.
Creating a musical response to her series of meditations on Psalm 13 gave me an opportunity to “sit” in Psalm 13 and contemplate the psalmist’s words and Nicora’s response. At the same time, perhaps not coincidentally, I was playing music with my toddler Walter and started to sing “Just Am I”, open on the hymnal on our piano, playing around with a more introspective style. Next to the hymnal on the stand were Nicora’s images. Over the next few week, the stories of Psalm 13, Nicora’s meditation, and “Just as I Am” wove together and felt like a natural extension of one another.
I imagine the singer working through all of this at once, singing, speaking, meditating, and listening through the span of this song. This beautiful performance by Emily Clare Zempel captures the emotion of Psalm 13.
Nicora Gangi was educated at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, USA (BFA 1974 and MFA 1976). She was a Professor of Art at Syracuse University for 29 years. Gangi has been awarded many Grand Prize and First Place awards and grants including the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award. She has been and continues to be published in numerous artist books on pastel paintings. She has lectured regionally and nationally as a visiting artist at universities and artist’s guilds. She is represented by: MME Fine Art, New York,NY, Bender Gallery, Asheville, NC, LM Gallery, Saratoga, WY.
Jonathon Roberts is a composer and performer from Wisconsin living in Beacon, NY. By day he writes music for slot machines, by night, the Bible. With his wife, Emily Clare Zempel, he collaborates on music and theatre projects, and founded the arts non-profit Spark and Echo Arts. His style was shaped by studying at Lawrence University, touring the country in an RV as the Apostle Paul, performing in an absurdist downtown NYC music/theatre ensemble, and being father to Walter and Alvin.
This work was curated by Jonathon Roberts.
All materials are copyrighted by the artists and used here by permission.