“And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will have faith in you with the real riches of heaven?” Luke 16:1
Elevated in a little Pennsylvania Dutch group surrounded by farms and the Mennonite faith, Samantha Joy Groff’s get the job done functions animals, vegetation, and woman subjects enmeshed in a knot of competing wants. Her observe pits the conservative values of the Pennsylvania Dutch versus contemporary beliefs of wealth, spouse and children, and need via the woman practical experience. Drawing on the record of rural painters like Andrew Wyeth and Grant Wood, her paintings resist their austere shade palettes, stoic figures, and ubiquitous pastoral landscape compositions. Rather, the function indulges in severe emotional affect, off-kilter colors, and sensual body/land entanglements.
In Legitimate Riches, Groff investigates classic Mennonite suspicion of worldliness, a term made use of to designate attitudes, tendencies, and conduct affected by the “world”––the evil system of life and conduct opposed to Christ. The notion of the entire world is utilised commonly in this sense in the New Testomony: Paul (Galatians 1:4) explained Christ’s saving get the job done as a deliverance “from this present evil earth.” Jesus claimed (John 17:16) that His disciples “are not of the earth, even as I am not of the entire world.” Groff explores this resistance to contemporary influences within just her extended Mennonite loved ones, and how above the last two a long time, she has seen the planet slowly but surely seeping into an or else closed neighborhood.
Inspired by a current vacation to Kentucky to pay a visit to her cousins, the will work in Genuine Riches are based on Groff’s experience through a doing work holiday break expended on their farm to relieve the stress of caring for their land in trade for meals, high-quality time, and collaborative portrait sessions with her spouse and children. Groff noticed how her cousins, now younger ladies aged 18 and 21, are commencing to make conclusions that will impact the rest of their lives, although beneath the confinement of their spiritual upbringing.
Groff’s paintings come to feel weird due to the fact there is no precedent, that she is aware of, for representational art in Mennonite tradition. Her figures live concurrently in a past, current, and someplace in-among a drive/pull amongst a contemporary existence and standard modes of Mennonite working experience. The record of Mennonite artwork has mostly been non-representational and strictly functional, normally relegated to the classification of craft––quilts, home furnishings, reserve producing, and bible folk art. Groff attracts from common depictions of divinity, while resisting ornate iterations of Catholic saints that are typically solid in opposition to Mennonite faith. Legitimate Riches contends with generating modern day Christian artwork in just a historical society that refuses idolatry of any type.
Inspired by Mannerist figuration, Groff’s subjects’ elongated limbs and brittle-slender necks indulge in an ambiguity amongst who these young females are, the place they arrive from, and what they want for their futures. Their downcast stares, coquettish sideways gazes, and refined sexuality bump up towards the modesty of their group and a notion of functioning-class survivalism, in which the entire body is employed to make a living as a result of guide labor. For Groff, the neck gets to be an invitation into indulgence, even nevertheless her figures do not meet viewers’ eyes. The rubbery limbs and untrue nails suggest a fantasy established in opposition to the realism of the figures portrayed, to symbolize the need for sure feminine features that are negated by the physical labor necessary in an agriculture sector. Even the animals depicted have an elastic excellent that would make them unfit to retain on a doing the job farm.
Listed here, Groff alludes to an undercurrent of want for correct riches, whatever they could be, to discover the clashing of worldliness and particular person expression with purity and religion. The do the job investigates striving in direction of an unknowable long run (heaven), and a confrontation of the fact of the earth with its infinite temptations. Groff provides us an personal glimpse into a local community, inspite of nevertheless herself lacking access that comes with staying a devout member of the Mennonite religion. What is discovered is the artist’s own ambiguous nevertheless emotional romantic relationship to her shortcomings of religion, established versus a backdrop of works that are grounded in earthly existence.