Like many Mennonites, I grew up singing. Hymns at church, grace before meals, songs around a campfire—always in the four-part a cappella style characteristic of North American Mennonites. I learned early on to sing harmony, to let my individual voice become part of the larger body of voices; distinct but united around a common song.
Music remains deeply embedded in my life and work. For many years now, my artwork has focused on translating music into color patterns, converting the time-based format of music (one note after another, fleeting) into a visual snapshot (every note at once, static). “six-oh-six” re-interprets a beloved Mennonite hymn, known as “606” after its number in an old hymnal, into a series of 100 paintings. Collectively, the paintings represent the entire hymn, displaying the interweaving of the four voice parts; individually, the paintings stand alone as studies of color and texture.
In four-part harmony church singing, the focus is rarely on blend or balance or breath, in the way a choral ensemble attempts to unify its sound into one voice. Instead, church singing encourages presence and community. It is raw and imperfect, with some voices too loud, some off-pitch, some struggling to follow along, some singing from memory, some making up parts that aren’t printed on the page. To that end, I have left imperfections throughout the paintings: places where background layers show through, where edges are irregular. They are not mistakes; they are an acknowledgement of our messy humanity and the beauty of singing together anyway.
Commissioned by Eastern Mennonite University in honor of their Centennial in 2017.