Ssali, Gloria - by Victoria Emily Jones
Gloria Ssali: In Gethsemane
by Victoria Emily Jones
In this richly imagined oil painting by Ugandan artist Gloria Ssali, Jesus’ head is literally opened up and on fire—it seems to have exploded, setting loose all his haunted thoughts so that they now dance before his eyes. The thickly applied brushstrokes give a sense of heaviness to the work, and the fiery, blood-red tones suggest intense heat, appropriately hinting at what’s in store for Jesus in the coming hours. And what’s that around our hero’s head: a halo (marking his divinity) or the imprint of a crown of thorns (marking his mocked kingship)? Or maybe both at the same time?
The shapes around Jesus’ head assume a similar ambiguity. At the bottom left their form seems human, but elsewhere in the frame they are just nebulous whirls of color. Are they the embodied souls of the future saved or the souls of the future damned? Or simply souls whose futures are yet to be determined by the decision Jesus is about to make? Perhaps Satan tried to get inside Jesus’ head that night and convince him to back out, or to push back. Maybe he conjured up images for Jesus of those millions of people across future generations who would reject him and his work on the cross.
But Jesus’ trust in the Father and his assured sense of mission was stronger than any doubts or fears he may have felt. His sacrificial death was the only way to win the world back to God, and love impelled him toward that decisive act.
Gloria Ssali is originally from Uganda. At age eleven she moved to the United Kingdom with her family. She trained as a pharmacist, but after attending a local workshop in ceramics in Harrow Weald decided to give that up and follow her dream. She found her own way into painting, drawing and sculpture. Her Catholic faith is a big inspiration. She loves all forms of art and likes to explore world culture. fineartamerica.com/featured/in-gethsemane-gloria-ssali.html
Victoria Emily Jones lives in the Boston area, where she works as an editorial assistant at Shambhala Publications, Inc., a publisher of books on Eastern religions, philosophy, and art. In 2010, she received a BA in journalism and English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A year later, she founded thejesusquestion.org, a website where she explores various conceptions of Jesus in the visual, literary, performing, and musical arts, as well as in popular culture and in churches around the world.