Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The beauty of.... well, Beauty!

I once entered a juried exhibit where the juror made comments that were sent back to the entering artist. I do believe one of my pieces was accepted, though I don't remember for sure. What I do remember is the comment the juror made about my work. He/she said the work was "too pretty" and it "would have made a stronger statement had I not made beauty an object of my work." I also remember noting how many ugly pieces there were in that particular exhibit. I never understood why the juror, also a fiber artist, had a preference for the ugly, the obscene, the dark and depressing; the work that uplifted neither the viewer nor, I am convinced, the creator. Nor did I think it could have uplifted the Creator.

Beauty is pretty much just defined as "something that is aesthetically pleasing," so of course it is subjective, or "in the eye of the beholder." There are certainly lots of cases where an artist sets out to create something beautiful, and may even feel they have succeeded, but other viewers may not see beauty in it.

So why am I thinking about beauty? I have been looking about me, in this long dark winter, searching for beauty, and it is very clear to me that beauty is of value to the Creator of this world, and that He wants us to see and appreciate it. We can read of artists and craftsmen in the Bible who were directly inspired by Him to create objects of beauty. When the ark of the covenant and later the temple were built, they were decorated at His instruction with gold images from nature and 'precious stones for beauty.' Some of the beautiful objects were put in the most holy place, where only the high priest and God Himself would see them. There was no structural or practical reason for the decoration. It was strictly meant to glorify and please God with it's beauty.

I decided long ago when I began making things, that I wanted to create work that was as beautiful as I possibly could make it be. Why would I want to spend time and resources making something that is not positive, that does not uplift the viewer and give any glory to God? I do know that some artists feel they have very good reasons to draw attention to the ugly side of life. In my role as guest curator for a number of exhibitions I have seen quite a few truly horrible and even frightening works. They did have some message, but I couldn't see that they needed to be so hideous. What an artist puts out into the world has the power to spread. My art goes places I will never see. It can spread fear, hatred, lust, and all the ugliness of the world like an infectious disease. Or it can bring joy, recall pleasant memories, and lift the spirit of the viewer, like the power of a sweet smile. I do not apologize for pursuing beauty in my work. If jurors and 'sophisticated' critics see it as 'too pretty,' they do not have the same motivation I have. My work is created not only to please the viewer; it is created to please the Creator.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Creativity, as God's work

I have long held the belief - as strong a belief as any I have - that creativity is God's work. When we seek to know God through His word, our first glimpse of Him is as a creator. And when man is created, it is noted that he is made in God's image. We are then also to be creators. To ignore the gift of creativity in ourselves is to ignore God in us.

Creative venues - Art, if you will - have much too long been in the hands of those who do not acknowledge the Spirit's collaboration in their work. Creative gifts were once encouraged in churches and by those who wanted to see those gifts used by God's people. But in the last several centuries, it was somehow determined that those gifts were not Godly enough, or that the products of those gifts encouraged idolatry. For whatever reason, the arts have long been discouraged or, at best ignored, by many churches and religious institutions and leaders. Theaters, movies, music, visual art, and literature is now much less in the hands of those who seek Godly collaboration than it is in the hands of the secular world.

But creative work as the work of God is far from dead. I believe "God's word," or the inspired words of God are continuing to be written by many fine writers who seek His inspiration. And we have seen several movies recently that clearly show God's involvement in their creation.

We are all born with a Creator - the creative form of God - in us. I just have to watch my grandchildren paint and color with joyful abandon to see this truth. The challenge is to get our own egos out of the way and to let our acquired skills and our desire to create become vessels for the voice of God. The first step, I think, is to let go of the idea that the art we make is "our work" and to embrace the image of it as the work of God.

To this end, I have been reading and studying and praying about what it means to be a creative Christian. What does God want me to do with the desire to create that He has given me? How can I use the talents, gifts, and skills He has given me for His good? Why has He made me an artist, instead of making me a more 'useful' tool? And, perhaps the most difficult question of all, do I need to know the answers to all these questions or the outcomes of the work I do to fulfill the purpose He has created me for?

To be continued, I am sure....