Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.
~ Proverbs 31:31
And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
~ Colossians 3:17
Artist Ronni Jolles describes her technique as “painting with paper.” Indeed, as you will see while viewing “Women at Work,” St. Michael’s first on-the-walls exhibit since the pandemic of 2020-2021 disrupted the world, painting with paper, which can be ripped and cut, shredded and colored, manipulated into beautiful forms, requires not only sure hands but also exquisite technique to bring alive what it represents. The medium resulting in what you see fools the eye.
“Women at Work: A Solo Exhibition by Paper Artist Ronni Jolles” presents for the first time anywhere a series of entirely new works, all one-of-a-kind, on an intriguing subject long-held close to the artist’s heart: the work of women, from around the world, as they engage in their daily labors.
Like the maker and doer Jolles herself is, so, too, are the figures she represents in her skillfully layered paper art. We see, for example, women in Tanzania planting and caring for the earth, reminding us of our sacred duty to be good environmental stewards of God’s creation. We see a woman teaching a class in Guatemala, where 21 distinct Mayan languages are still spoken today; another selling fresh fruits and vegetables at a market stall in Israel, and still others washing laundry in a lake in Peru or, as in India, carrying vessels of potable water. Doers and caretakers, nurturers and providers, the women featured in the artworks “do not eat the bread of idleness” (Prov. 31:27) but have a purpose they undertake every day for the good of their families and their communities, as well as themselves.
As we view these images, we can imagine the conversations these women might have as they go about their duties, or how they might feel at the close of day, when the burdens of their work are lifted and they have an opportunity to take a repast or rest before the sun again rises.
As all good art does, Jolles’s particular representations of women at work leave us with questions beyond the artistic process: Why the theme women at work? What is the importance of the work shown in the art, and to what degree is it the same or different the world over? What do their toils mean for them and for those they live among? How do we regard the work women do? With what compassion and understanding do we address these doers and caretakers? Were we required to engage in some of these same hard labors, would we, could we, do so? Are these women of faith? What gives women the strength to do the work they do? What complaints might they have? What does the Bible offer as perspective on women’s work? Where in the Bible do we find examples of women at work? How does the work shown in the art differ from the work of women today?
An opportunity to hear Ronni Jolles talk about her art background, how and why she created her distinctive paper art form, what materials she uses, and what her process requires is scheduled for Sunday, September 26, at 4:00 p.m. Guests will be able to examine samples of the hand-made papers the artist uses and buy affordable prints of her original works, which also will be offered for purchase. (See the Artist Talk section of this exhibition for additional information.)
The exhibit will be on the walls of the Parish Hall throughout the month of September. For visiting hours, directions, or other information, please telephone: Parish Administrator, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 1132 N. Ivanhoe St., Arlington, VA 22205; (703) 241-2474.
PLEASE BE PREPARED TO OBSERVE ANY COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS THAT MAY BE IN PLACE WHILE VIEWING THE EXHIBITION OR ATTENDING THE ARTIST TALK.