A Gift For You
Post date: Dec 16, 2019 7:31:52 PM
Recently I have had a huge breakthrough in my work - and it was measured with my first solo exhibition of my paintings. It was a small thing in the art world, but a huge thing for me. It was marked by an opening in which my friends and family came together to help me celebrate. Before the opening, a friend of mine asked me “what makes you feel like your work is valued?” I didn’t have an answer for her. But I have let the question tumble in mind for some time.
I am not formally trained in the arts. I just know I cannot stop making things. It is innate to me, like breathing. To make things is both joy and because of joy. Even if there is a sadness or brokenness, there is still a hope of joy and wholeness. To create is to simultaneously share something of myself and something bigger than myself. To create is to express and experience and cherish my humanness. It is delight, refreshment, contentment, worth.
Over the last two decades, I have watched my community, country and culture be slowly torn apart by division. I have seen it rented politically. I have seen it ripped morally and spiritually. Great divides have been slashed through this society. I have heard language and seen behavior further those tears until they seem insurmountable. There is the left and right, people of color and people who are white, the religious and irreligious, rich and poor, educated and non-educated, rural and urban. The language between these groups has become divisive and accusatory, lobbed at the other, laced with bitterness and anger. The great fissures in our society continue to widen and deepen and destroy.
I have long realized that I am uniquely positioned to help lessen these chasms because I often tread between these many opposing camps. I was raised in a very conservative family, in a very liberal community. I grew up in a home riddled with strife and extreme long-term abuse; now my husband and I have a home built on love and peace. I have known the hopelessness of poverty, and I have lived in plenty. I grew up with the uneducated and then went to graduate school. I have routinely gone to church and yet work with those clinging to secularism. I have known suffocating doubt and cynicism and yet have had faith grow and blossom. I have experienced a strong body, and have had extreme health problems. I have known the fullness of life and love, but I have known the pain of death. I am currently in a calm part of my life, yet, I deal with diagnosed complex PTSD. It seems my whole life has been filled with juxtapositions. Because of these experiences, I easily shift between worlds and groups of people that normally stay isolated from one another. I have grown to understand each group's culture, language and values.
The other day, I had the opportunity to stop at the Audubon for a few minutes of quiet. I walked through my display quietly, looking at my work alone with only the lights from the windows streaming in. In the Christian tradition God created beauty - all of creation - out of nothing and bestowed it as a gift for humanity to enjoy. Beauty was born of God's goodness. As I stood there, I was struck with the realization that every single piece in the exhibit was made in response to a moment of wonder.
As I looked at my Indian Pipes painting, I remembered crouching down in thoughtful awe. I had seen them countless times, but was delighted to see them again. It was a moment of beholding. I remember pulling out a loupe and studying them. I remember researching them and seeing the nuances of the different varieties. I remember being enthralled to learn they are actually a flower, rather than a fungus. Yet, they have no chlorophyll for photosynthesis. Indian pipes obtain nourishment from the rich organic soil and can thrive in even the deepest, darkest parts of the woods. I remember thinking I am not so unlike an indian pipe flower - I can survive and even thrive in the darkest of circumstances if I ensure my roots extend down deeply into what is good and true.
My Three Waterlilies painting is my favorite piece. This is not because of the quality of it, but because of the memory it evokes. It makes me recall the dawn I saw them out on Clark Pond. It was a moment of wonder. I was captivated by beauty. Though the lilies were stunning, the beauty of the moment was greater. I had camped in a tent with my children and we were just kayaking lazily back toward the car. It was very early in the morning and the warmth of the sun was on my back. A loon had just popped up and I watched my youngest son pause as he studied it. My oldest was fishing. Bugs were buzzing and water beetles were darting. It was a moment overflowing with wonder and contentment. It was a moment in which I was basked in the rich generosity and graciousness and goodness of god. The moment was a gift given to me and the painting oozed out of my fingertips from gratitude.
Beauty begets beauty, and it is always a gift. It is always generosity given. As such, it should be cherished.
It is moments like these two that have grown my faith. These little gifts have morphed my bitterness to empathy, my anger to compassion. It is these little moments that have taught me that God is good - that he can be trusted.
As I looked around the room, I saw my paintings like illuminated crumbs of thankfulness dropped along my dark path toward faith.
So what makes my art valuable? I still can’t answer that fully. But my paintings are little gifts of wonder given to me and then passed on to you. I hope it gives you a moment of wonder too, regardless of your worldview. I hope it makes you pause and remember there is beauty and goodness even in the midst of our factions and dysfunction. Let that beauty and goodness seep into you. Let it show you our sameness is bigger than our differences. Let my work give you a desperately needed respite. Let it give rest in frustration, comfort in mourning, ease in despair. Let it encourage grace and forgiveness. Let it be a catalyst for regeneration in your heart. Let it give you strength to reach across our divides, to lessen these distance between us. Let it bridge these cleaves among us. My work is a gift of goodwill to you, an offering and homage.