‘St Nicholas Sparrows’ by Warren S. Heaton.
“Are not two Sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Fathers care. And even the hairs on your head are all numbered. So do not be afraid you are worth many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31
“I can do no other than be reverent before everything that is is called life” Albert Schweitzer
Why are they called St Nicholas Sparrows?
The Sparrows originally began as an installation at ‘St Nicholas’ Church, Tremarchog, near Strumble head, Pembrokeshire, in June 2017. They were part of the annual ‘Art on the Faith Trail’ exhibition. Each Artist is invited to put on an exhibition in a church. I was invited to St Nicholas. A beautiful, ancient church, parts of which are believed to date from the end of the Roman period! It is dedicated to St Nicholas, a 4th century Greek bishop, who lived and died in what is now Turkey. He is the patron saint of sailors and children, and was known for his secret gift giving, gaining him a reputation for leaving coins in people’s stockings or shoes as they dried, hung by the fire. Hence, one of the popular origins of St Nicholas as Santa Claus!
The Penny, the Sparrow and the Wood?
The Artists were given free rein to produce a body of work for their exhibition, it doesn’t have to be on a religious theme, most artists don’t. I’m not a follower of any one particular religious’ dogma, but, I chose for the premise, a text from the new testament, ‘Are not two Sparrows sold for a penny?’ from St Mathews Gospel (10:29), (I felt it also linked St Nicholas and his ‘benevolent coins’).
In the sparrow, we see so much of ourselves. We can easily relate to their squabbling, social and dogged nature. These ubiquitous brown birds, these little citizens, thrive in the least natural of environments… alongside us!
I used recycled floor boards and old wooden panels, to paint the sparrows on, giving the wood new life, new worth, while showing the scars from their degradation and former uses. I was drawn to the ‘universal sentiment’ beneath Matthew’s text; the idea of ‘Worth’ and ‘Value’ and what that means for us today. From a simple humanitarian sense, our need, not only to feel of worth but to feel a reverence for each other and all living things is, I think, one of our most basic human needs. There is reverence in all living things, even seemingly ‘worthless’ things. I originally placed 25 sparrows around St Nicholas church for people to discover. They have surprisingly resonated and proved popular with people, I am still painting them today.
“Is not our worth, bestowed upon us, by the nature of our humanity? Are we not, but scraps of wood upon which is the painted image of our Humanity? In this instance, a sparrow, the lowliest of all the Birds.”
Warren S. Heaton