Artist's work debuts at Minnesota mission

Monday, May 16, 2005
"Lion of Judah"

HOLIDAY ISLAND -- Two years elapsed from the time Elaine Ostroot offered to work for the Lord to the time the congregation of Holiday Island Community Church recently blessed her and her husband, Jerry, as they prepared to travel to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., this week for a debut exhibition of her Africa-themed art opening on Pentecost Sunday, May 15.

Elaine has never been to Africa.

This Sunday's exhibit opening is the latest in a series of events which might seem coincidental, but Elaine might better describe them as providential.

"I had a choice," she said, "to do what I do or work for Him, but not both." Long known for her large canvases of flowers, she tried a couple of paintings with service to God in mind, "but nothing happened."

It was then that the new pastor of Holiday Island Community Church shared some slides from when he was a missionary in Africa 25 years ago. Those slides sparked her inspiration, and the series being shown this weekend was started.

Meanwhile, two friends of hers provided her some animal pictures. One of those friends had been a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, while the other had gone on safari there.

"The pictures just started coming in" Elaine said, as word got out about her project.

Through the grapevine, she met a friend of a friend who was from India and four years ago had affiliated with Agora, a Lutheran-oriented ministry based in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis draws educated immigrants from Africa and the rest of the world, and Agora focuses on helping these immigrants reduce their accents and get them involved in church.

The friend from India saw her work and was impressed, and Elaine felt drawn to join him in his work.

With 24 paintings completed, she first thought about getting a grant to reproduce them to raise funding for Agora, but that process was too time-consuming and the May 15 Pentecost Celebration was fast approaching.

With other aspects of the project coming together, Elaine moved to donate the paintings directly to Agora, retaining the reproduction rights, which she can use to cover her expenses.

Another friend helped put together her Web site, at, where prints, in a variety of sizes and prices, can be ordered.

Meanwhile, Elaine made contact with Ted Hood in Eureka Springs, who created digital reproductions, often called "giclees," of the original paintings. Smaller sizes are reproduced on heavy weight, 100 percent cotton paper ready to be mounted and framed under glass. The larger sizes are reproduced on 65/35 poly/cotton canvas ready to be mounted and framed without glass.

The series, titled "A Missionary's Journey in Africa," will open at 3 p.m. Sunday at Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn., preceding the 5 p.m. Pentecost Celebration which will include music, scripture, prayers and testimonials from different ethnic groups.

Elaine's work is remarkably detailed, especially considering that she often worked from photographs.

One subject, "Lion of Judah" is actually a lion whose habitat is at Turpentine Creek south of Eureka Springs. The lion is a symbol of royalty and courage, and was adopted by the Israelite tribes of Judah, Dan and Gad, as well as the nation of Babylon. In Revelation 5:5, Jesus is described as the Lion of Judah, and at His return He will tame even the fierce heart of the lion, as described in Isaiah 11:7.

Other prints of animals in the series show the towering neck and head of a giraffe delicately eating foliage from a tree which has nettles on its branches; Hippopotami in a pool; the head and muscular neck of a cheetah; a lone rhinocerous standing in a savannah; a herd of zebras; a Cape Buffalo with his distinctive helmet-like horns; the profile of an impala against an orange/brown sky; and an elephant and egrets at a pool in front of a cloud-shrouded Mt. Kilamanjaro.

But striking as Elaine's animal and nature paintings are, her portraits of African men, women and children are just as striking, if not more so.

A barefoot young African woman walks with a bowl and basket balanced on her head against a pastel background of greens, yellows and reds. "Oom" is apparanetly a tribal sage, an old man in a brilliant red wrap. The lean subject of "Young Warrior" is also dressed in red, and is depicted against a green background which enhances his powerful but dignified appearance.

Two paintings of African women, "Who Loves Me" and "Without Hope," show the head and upper torso, also draped in red and against yellow to orange backgrounds. The two works definitely look like they go together in a grouping.

Other depictions of people include an African church service in which a beam of light shoots through the ceiling to the floor in front of the pulpet, and an abstract of heads of men and boys, one head with a Bible.

When she returns from Minnesota, Elaine is ready to tackle the next stage of her "offering" -- 10 more paintings of animals and people from other countires, to be produced this year.

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