The Songs of Ascents Series

Aaron Collier, professor of painting at Tulane University in New Orleans completed a series of paintings on the Psalms of Ascents (Psalm 120-134) in 2007.  He has graciously allowed us to integrate his images of these psalms into our teaching and reflection on the Songs of Ascents.

Here is Aaron’s introduction to the series.

Hope without a formidable opponent is fancy; joy without teeth becomes limp amusement. Sorrow swims in and through our days in pursuit of unguarded celebration, yearning to seize hope and joy.  The paintings of Songs of Ascent mark such a battle, but ultimately declare Joy the victor.  The toil and industry of sorrow is not dismissed; rather, it is employed and embraced by the galvanized arms of delight.  Dualistic devices, such as the lush field and the crude mark, denote such action; heavy tones or dingy scrawls occupy important territory in the composition, but are frequently overrun and overcome by brighter cuffs. Festivity transforms the grubby fingers of despair and triumphantly clambers to the throne.

Brief songs were composed by Israelites of the Ancient Near East to score their ascent towards Jerusalem for yearly feasts and celebrations in honor of Yahweh.  These songs were the expressions of pilgrims, honest about travail yet hopeful regarding the future.  I liken my current paintings to these pithy tunes of transition written by the Israelites.  The paintings avoid fully chronicled events and accounts in congruency with the Psalms; the images picture robust glimpses of hope’s triumph.  Also like the Psalms, joy is manifest in varying degrees within these paintings; Mercy and Surely There is Hope merely glimmer while Abundance overflows.  The paintings of Songs of Ascent are intended to sanctify the journey and reveal as limited the path that avoids struggle in pursuit of revelry.


Songs of Ascents – “self titled”

Songs of Ascent - (c) 2007 Aaron Collier


Psalm 120 – “Settling the Foreign Land”

Settling the Foreign Land (Psalm 120) - (c) 2007 Aaron Collier


Psalm 121 – “A Glimpse to the Hills”

A Glimpse to the Hills (Psalm 121) - (c) 2007 Aaron Collier


Psalm 122 – “Patience”

Patience (Psalm 122) - (c) 2007 Aaron Collier


Psalm 123 – “Help Higher than the Hills”

Help Higher than the Hills (Psalm 123) - (c) 2007 Aaron Collier


Psalm 124 – “Snare Broken”

Snare Broken (Psalm 124) - (c) 2007 Aaron Collier


Psalm 126 – “Laughter”

Laughter (Psalm 126) - (c) 2007 Aaron Collier


Psalm 128 – Abundance”

Abundance (Psalm 128) - (c) 2007 Aaron Collier


Psalm 129 – “Furrows not Fallow”

Furrows Not Fallow (Psalm 129) - (c) 2007 Aaron Collier


Psalm 130 – “Like the Watchmen Waits for the Morning”

Like the Watchmen Waits for Morning (Psalm 130) - (c) 2007 Aaron Collier


Psalm 131 – Peace through Proximity”

Peace Through Proximity (Psalm 131) - (c) 2007 Aaron Collier


Psalm 133 – Like the Dew of Hermon”

Like the Dew of Hermon (Psalm 133) - (c) 2007 Aaron Collier


Psalm 134 – Grounded, Leaping”

Grounded, Leaping (Psalm 134) - (c) 2007 Aaron Collier


Images from the St. Alban’s Psalter

LINK to online images of the Psalms of Ascents from this illuminated 12th Century Psalter.

Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard


The Psalms of Ascents – Word Clouds provides a unique way to ‘image’ a large amount of text.  We used it to provide these ‘word clouds’ of the Psalms of Ascents (Psalm 120-134) using the text of the ESV translation.

Image 1

Psalms of Ascents (ESV) - Word Cloud

Image 2

Psalms of Ascents 2 (ESV) - Word Cloud

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  1. Pingback: Psalms of Ascents Grant Project | Songs for the Sojourn

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