Painting: James Reeb (1927-1965)

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Painting: James Reeb (1927-1965)

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Prints available in either Matte Poster or Stretched Canvas formats.

Enrich your home, office, or congregation with a print of this painting by Student Pastor Andy Jacobs.

All revenue generated from sales of this artwork are donated to the West Wind Unitarian Universalist Congregation's General Fund, to help cover the operating costs of being a welcoming, affirming, and socially active congregation in Norman, Oklahoma.

James Reeb (1927-1965)

A member of the Unitarian Arlington Street Church in Boston and regular guest preacher for surrounding communities. Reeb went to Selma to march with Martin Luther King, Jr. after King invited clergy to join a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to demand voting rights for the black community. He was severely beaten by a white mob after eating dinner with black and white ministers on March 9th. He died in hospital on March 11th, 1965.

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This painting is done in the style of surrealist painter Salvador Dali (1904-1989). Reeb was an ordained Unitarian Universalist Association minister: a title available after the two faiths combined in 1961. The dream scape imagery is reflective of the individual pursuit of spirituality called for in the UUA seven principles. This is an homage to Dali's second “Madonna of Port Lligat” painted in 1950. Using a similar horizon and chest cutout from the Port Lligat painting this painting reflects the martyrdom of a social justice activist within the UU collective history. Holding a Hartford Current newspaper describing the events of the Selma protests, Reeb is “staked” to a deli stool for his martyrdom. In the horizon distance are two white hands holding instruments of violence symbolizing the beating that led to Reeb's death. The sandwich and milk shake (with two straws) are the deli become last supper communion of Reeb's martyrdom. The elephant, both the elephant in the room and symbol of the Republican party (advocates for desegregation), is opposite the Selma bridge, lit up at night. The nautilus shell is a symbol of expansion and renewal. The apostle Judas Thaddaeus was also martyred by a mob beating. In paintings of Jude, Christ is often portrayed on a gold medallion around his neck. The gold medallion in this painting depicts Martin Luther King, Jr., the Christ figure Reeb followed to his death. Within Reeb's chest is the chalice, which became the symbol of the Unitarian Universalists. The mountains in the background create a “v” void upon which sits Reeb, head crowned in glory, upon his stool, creating a larger chalice of self. In Reeb's chest burns a blue eternal flame.