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Art and Faith

This past weekend began my last four fair weekends. The first three Saturdays of October are Saturday Artisan Markets at Canalside in Buffalo. I have great hopes for these Saturdays since our September Saturdays were blown out due to high winds. We're expecting rain, but it appears that the cold front will go through on Friday. Here's hoping to decent weather. Honestly, I don't mind the rain so much, it's the wind that can be problematic.

Orchids 2, Linen and Acrylic, Woven Transparency, 2012

Over the summer while I've created items for sale, I tend to contemplate life questions, and many of them focus around my chosen fields (weaving and writing) as well as my Christian faith. Can the two connect in any meaningful way or must I constantly separate the two?

In years past, it has been a struggle especially since I tend toward abstract and less realism in my art work. My art work tends to be feelings and impressions less than actual images. When I approach a theme, I begin with images, and work from there. At my former church, the artwork used in the church were often idyllic scenes countered with scripture references or poems. The art was there to provide a sense of peace as well as a sense of hope, endurance and strength.

It was, and remains, safe as is often the case in locations with high-traffic and variety of people. We do not desire to offend anyone or cause uncomfortable questions to be asked. I understand this, and agree with it. I have younger cousins I want to protect from the harsher realities of life; yet, because I have younger cousins doesn't negate the need for me to at least be aware of some harsher realities. It makes me a better adult.

And in this case, art steps into the fray. Others have gone through difficult times, and they can teach me whether through fiction, dance, music, film or another avenue. Still others have not faced difficult times, but have struggled to understand deeper questions dealing with life or faith. Through their art, I can both be challenged and supported in the quest.

Art, like the woven transparency above, can simply be present to add beauty, or to cause us to look at items differently. My first introduction to Georgia O'Keefe was her intimate paintings of flowers, I love the vibrancy and immediacy of the paintings, and wondered at her attention to detail. I'm still amazed at the beauty to be found in so small a section. Oddly enough, it's through the same love that I like fractals and their beauty.

Books like 1984 challenge us to reconsider our world, both the good and the bad. Music, one of the universal languages, can touch deep parts of our souls in moments of great emotion. Dance, like music, can reach us in moments of great emotion as well since many of us move our bodies naturally when filled with joy or happiness.

Art can be used to uplift and pull down. It can be used to comfort and to challenge, to bring peace or war. Art is, and will always remain, a powerful weapon in the hands of individuals both for good and for evil. Art is an expression of the intangible. What makes one person like a writer or painter, and another person dislike them? No idea, save that there is something that the creator has made which connects to one and not another.

How should the church see art then? As a tool to be used for one message, or as a means to express the hearts of individuals? I'm relieved to see a shift beginning to happen, a sea-change, if you will. For most of my life, Christian Art was exclusively used for salvation in that the primary use was to direct people to accept Christ as their Savior and convert to Christianity. Now, within the church, we see artists and patrons of the arts developing more conversations around the arts. The single focus is minimized for a fuller approach. Still, there are those out there who do not see the full vision, but I do have hope for those within the church to see art for its full beauty: as the means to express and consider beauty and sorrow; joy and pain; hope and fear - to, in essence, experience life.

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