Stephanie Muñoz-O’Neil: Seated


The wonderful part of having a conversation with Stephanie is you never know where exactly you will end up. She is a true creative to the core. She sees things differently and makes connections that no one would ever make. Her eye for the tiniest details and the ability to put that detail on a canvas is … well, I don’t have a word for it.

And canvas isn’t exactly right either. This particular piece is Masonite tile layered with modeling clay. Sitting in her studio was like a trip to Disney World for an artist. Every where you look, there is a detail, a cloud, a house, a tree, another detail that you missed even though you may have seen that work a thousand times before.

There was a secret conspiracy among the other artists for Stephanie to get SEATED. They wanted to see that ridiculous detail and creativity on the only word that didn’t have an earthly setting. She did not disappoint.

If you want to hear the whole conversation with Stephanie, you can watch it here.

One of my goals in this series was not only to give each artist an opportunity to unpack their work but to do so in a way that reflected who they are. This rarely happens in the art world. So each week, my goal was to provide a space comfortable enough for the artist to just be who they are. So while I did a ton of research on each of our guests and spent many conversations with them in person, in email, and on the phone, none of the interviews were scripted or planned out. I didn’t tell the artist what to say and they didn’t tell me what to ask. We wanted the conversations to be genuine and authentic and we accomplished these goals with flying colors.

4 Big Thoughts On Seated
It is finished – sin is covered.
There is now never a need for another sacrifice, the perfect one has been given.

It is finished – death is defeated.
Resurrection is not just for Jesus but for us as well. He gives us this gift when we are found IN CHRIST.

He invites us into His reign.
Ephesians 1 & 2 is a long list of spiritual gifts and benefits given to us when we become a Christ-follower. Read those two chapters and note how many times “In Christ” or “In Him” is used. It’s clear the connection- IN CHRIST, we have all these things. He invites us into His reign.

He reigns over all.
There is a tension on this one. Jesus is seated in the heavenly realms and he raises us up to sit with him YET we still live in a world marked by hurt, pain, disease, and physical death. There are times when it looks like He is not reigning. Yet we sing and we claim (because the Scriptures do as well) that Jesus is over all. For many this is the breaking point of trusting Jesus.

We live in the tension between two realities. There is the reality of the tree on Golgotha and resurrection. Sin and death have been dealt their final blow. They no longer have the last word on humanity. They no longer have to be the only way to define the human experience.

There is also the reality of Tree of Life in the New Jerusalem. It sits in the center of the city where the river of life runs by it and light shines from it. Where there is never darkness because the glory of Jesus is unveiled. One day, in this place sin and death will have NO WORD at all on the human experience.

We live in the middle. Already…not yet.

One Last Thought
During our last meeting before the interview, Stephanie invited me up one more time to her studio. As I walked in, SEATED was on the easel. It had bands of blue tape on it and all I could see were the blue sky and clouds.

“I’m so glad you are here! You get to see the big reveal!”

She proceeded to pull off the blue tape revealing the pinks and purples….and the tree. I didn’t say anything for 30 seconds. It was nothing what I was expecting for SEATED and it was perfect. The house…prepared for us by Jesus. The peacefulness of the colors. The Tree, the radiance from the tree. The river by the tree.

“So…what do you think?”

The irony of this situation. A talented, seasoned teacher and creator of art asking someone who has a hard time drawing stick figures for their opinion on their work.

“The tree…”

That was all I could get out of my mouth for the longest time. You can’t tell God’s story without trees. It starts in Genesis with 2 trees – life and knowledge. Humanity chooses the wrong tree. God protects us by removing the right tree so we don’t like separated from Him forever. He makes a promise – one day my Deliverer will come. He will make things right again forever.

Then we have family trees all through out the Scriptures. Reminding us of how God is keeping His promise. It feels like a long time. It feels slow. But all those family trees are stories of God’s faithfulness and grace.

The Gospels start with one of these trees pointing to Jesus. In fact, God puts his son in the family of a carpenter. We have the tree of Calvary. It looks darkest at this tree. Has death won? Is this yet another chapter of God saying – keep waiting, not yet?

There is one more tree left in the story. The Tree of Life reintroduced to us with no restriction by the River of life in the New Jerusalem. He is seated. It is done. It is well.

This is what art is SUPPOSED to do. Take us to another place. Put images where words fail. To speak nuance to our hearts. I’m thankful for Stephanie’s gift in doing exactly this.

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