Thresholds: “Between Homes (Agnete)” by Karlee Lillywhite

While this week is centered on election furor and uncertainty, it’s been full of good things, too: research sessions into the meaning of fantasy that felt like deep-sea diving, class presentations on sacramentalism, Anthroposophy, and labyrinths, carrot cake and chamomile tea and walks in the wind-ruffled woods.

This week’s contribution to the Thresholds project is a work of beauty and mystery. In a pen and watercolor illustration, one of my classmates in the Theology and the Arts program, Karlee Lillywhite, explores the thresholds between sea/land, community/isolation, home/away…and more. I was Karlee’s partner for this project, so I gave her the following artifacts to start with:

  • Sea glass
  • Frost
  • Sound of bells

She responded with the exquisite work below. As a writer and not a visual artist or art expert, I can only gape in wonder at her fine, delicate composition, skillful use of color (especially gold!), and dreamy representation of sea and sky, land and the human face. Enjoy!

Between Homes (Agnete)

by Karlee Lillywhite
6″ x 6″ pen and watercolor work on illustration board

Between Homes (Agnete) watercolor

Karlee’s description:

This illustration is a scene from the story of Agnete and the Merman, which is a popular Scandinavian folk ballad about a human woman who falls in love with a merman and lives with him underwater. She has a family with the merman and lives happily with them for many years but one day, when she hears church bells ringing from up above, she becomes nostalgic for the land and wants to visit the surface. Once in the church building, she decides not to return to her underwater life. This painting depicts Agnete coming out of the water after her years below the surface. She is feeling the wind, breathing air, and hearing sounds clearly again for the first time as all the memories of her earth life and human identity come flooding back. An English version of the Danish ballad translated by George Borrow can be read here.

A closer look at certain aspects:

Karlee Lillywhite

Karlee Lillywhite

Karlee is a freelance illustrator who loves to tell visual stories that encourage experiences of longing and embodiment. Her work is inspired by women from literature and history and by the decorative motifs of medieval illuminated manuscripts and the art nouveau period. As a graduate student in the University of St Andrew’s Art and Theology program, she studies the devotional possibilities of illustration. You can follow her work and learn more about her process on her instagram and website.