PAINTING FROM GRIEF TO GLORY

PAINTING FROM GRIEF TO GLORY

Creating art that truly engages the mind and deeply moves the heart is a talent that reflects God’s beauty. Many artists create without ever realizing that their talents are infused by God, the ultimate artist and creator

Since the age of five, Rita Salazar-Dickerson dreamed of being an artist. She’s the middle of seven children and grew up admiring the scenic beauty around her home in Grand Junction, Colorado. Most of her childhood creations were done in pen and ink, because, according to her mom, paints were too messy. But by her junior high school years, she discovered a deep love for painting. Members of her family — each creative in their own ways, from design to culinary arts — encouraged and supported her developing gift.

Inspiring and innovative paintings rarely spring up out of the blue. To see her childhood dreams fulfilled, it has taken Rita years of cultivating the depth and discipline needed to re ne her skill and technique. She admits she is “ever learning,” and never feels she has arrived.

She majored in art at Colorado State University, but never finished a degree. In addition to her natural keen observation skills and a desire to learn, she also received valuable training from attending master classes on her way to becoming a professional artist.

Rita is renowned for her stunning Colorado landscapes and portraits that capture the unique personality of each subject. Her oil paintings have sold across the United States, and many have made their way around the globe, inspiring art lovers in Europe, Australia, Dubai and beyond.

Art as Ministry 

Rita views her art as a way to echo God’s creative character. “Knowing that God, the master artist, took pleasure in creating us in His image, it stands to reason that we nd joy in creating,” she says. “Even the simple act of dipping a clean brush into a palette of pure, cobalt blue or cadmium yellow paint can be therapeutic.”

Her beautiful work re ects a depth of emotion that she believes is the result of “holy moments.” Rita views painting as an act of worship, and it shows in her work, whether teaching a class for beginners, painting during services, helping with a set design at Woodmen or creating a custom, commissioned portrait.

The way Rita sees it, God inspires her at every step. She also looks at art not just as work, but as an opportunity for ministry. “God uses us all in different ways if we’re willing,” she says. “There are so many chances to serve in whatever way God has gifted you.”

“I always stand amazed at the effects art has on others as well as myself as I serve here at Woodmen,” Rita says. She’s had many moving experiences while painting at Woodmen, especially as part of Woodmen’s annual remembrance service — a time set aside to grieve loved ones who have died.

“I’ve been profoundly moved by the people who come to talk with me after these services. They share with me how the paintings have touched them and honored their loved one.”

Rita’s paintings for these services usually focus on a scripture passage, and she’s found a way to bridge the gap between artist and viewer. She allows the congregants to sign their loved one’s name on the painting. “They and their loved ones become part of the art,” she explains. “The people become participants instead of spectators in the act of creative worship.”

The Bible calls us to weep with those who weep, and Rita has discovered that art is a gift she can share with those in mourning. She recently painted an original piece for the family of Tyler Betz, a six-year-old who passed away after struggling with cancer. Tyler’s mother, Lindsay, asked Rita to paint Tyler running into the arms of Jesus.

Brushstrokes of Hope

As an artist, Rita draws inspiration from Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Through her work, Rita seeks to inspire viewers to “think about these things.” She notes, “When someone is shaken out of their comfort zone, mourning for the life they once knew, life can stall. Art can be a powerful tool to break down barriers and open doors; it initiates conversations or it can speak without words.”

Rita’s biggest desire is to please God with the talent that He has given her. Humorist Erma Bombeck wrote, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” Rita lives out those words as she pours her heart into her brushes, ministering in the church and beyond.


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