Why Art?

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In a world that keeps spinning toward black and white, art puts us in touch with pastels.

Last Friday evening, my wife and I spent time at ArtPrize9. At one stop, there was a beautiful table made out of a piece of ash wood. The top of the table was filled by the artist with a mural of color and beauty. On the 2” side, however, there was no color, just etched trails that looked like they were done by a small carving tool. As I was viewing the table, the artist, who was on the other side of the table, and I began to talk about her art. It turned out that the table top was her art, but the edges were done by the ash borer which had killed the tree. Out of respect for the ash borer’s art, she didn’t touch the edges and even included the head and wings of an ash borer emerging onto the top of the table in her drawing. I asked her, “How did you decide what to draw and where?” Her response was classic artist. “I spent time with the wood and then it started speaking to me.” As I smiled at her response, I affirmed to her that I was thankful that she was an artist and could have that kind of a conversation – because I’m quite sure as a non-artist, that I wouldn’t understand the language. I looked at the table some more – enriched, and admittedly somewhat baffled, by the idea that somehow this wood had participated with the artist in what it had become.

Earlier this month, Branson Parlor reflected on this same idea in a blog post where he wrote:

“For art tells a certain kind of truth that cannot be seen or expressed any other way. Because of this, art is not just necessary for artists to produce; it is a necessary part of our humanity that we discern, consume, and produce good art.”

All of this made me reflect on art and artists in our congregations. How do we value art and artists? How do we discern, produce and even consume good art? If we treat art well, isn’t that really the prize art has for us? Isn’t engaging art the way we access the truth that God is the original artist who gave birth to his creativity in creation – of which humanity was the crowning creation. So visit some art the next couple of weeks. Engage an artist in conversation – even if her response may in some ways baffle you as it did me. Enjoy in those moments, the pastel colors that may give us some rest from all the black and white debates of our day.

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