This beautiful piece is currently on display at the MOA in the exhibition The Interpretation Thereof: Contemporary LDS Art and Scripture.
Artist Ron Richmond uses symbolic forms to invite meditation about Christ’s redemptive mission and its implications for each of us. The wooden table, empty chairs, white cloth, and olives evoke the setting of the Savior’s final Passover meal, the same evening He suffered in Gethsemane.
In this context, the objects become metaphors for Christ. The olives anticipate His suffering in Gethsemane—in Hebrew meaning, “the garden of the oil press.” There, the Savior experience the crushing weight of our infirmities, just as olives are repeatedly pressed in order to produce ever more refined oil. Christ’s spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical anguish makes possible the balm of healing, with which oil is often associated. Suggesting yet another traditional use of oil, His suffering enables us to become anointed, or Chosen, as He is—the very meaning of both “Messiah” (Hebrew) and “Christ” (Greek). Of the scattered olives, three are placed on a tray—a sacramental symbol of offering or service. The burial cloth draped over a vacant chair likewise implies His Resurrection and His mantle of purity and authority.
Image: Ron Richmond, Evening (no. 7), 2014, oil on canvas. Collection of the Artist.