Grateful for Art

A while back, I had the good luck to attend a recital by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, and at the time I wrote:

The world may not need another Traviata, or another Don Giovanni, it’s true. It will not stop spinning without another Schubert. For that matter, the world doesn’t need another MBA or another grad student, either. All have their place and their use, though, and it is not enough to feed the body and the retirement account. The soul must be lifted up and fed as well, and art can do that; art can feed what food and material possessions cannot. Great art can sometimes be a swifter, clearer and more direct conduit to the Almighty – to a soul’s one-on-one encounter with the Eternal – than any religion or prayer. We need it.
And art belongs to everyone, no matter how high or humble.

I have no art, myself. Some people are given the gift to create art, others to identify it and nurture it, others to use their own art to interpret or re-interpret. Sadly, none of that is me. Because I have a mushy sort of mind, all I can do is occasionally stumble on art and simply regard it with wonder and awe and joy; with great gratitude to the Creator God, who allows this in us – this freedom and madness – these visions and sounds, words and designs, sculptures and media that give us opportunities to transcend ourselves and meet Him on a creative/creator level.

This is not a matter of faith – my belief is that what human beings can imagine and bring forth from themselves is purely the gift and delight of a Creator who is only too glad to generously split His Divine Spark into us; it is a conviction of my gut, something I have known from my cradle.

Art is a fundamental projection that reaches out – when it is authentic – with such purity of self-revelation that draws forth from even the most suppressed of us, a response; it forces us outside of ourselves, even if we try to fight it.

If we don’t fight it, well, then it takes us along to astonishing places that end up introducing us to ourselves.

Here are three pictures of paper sculpture created with just one sheet of paper. They aren’t even the most impressive examples, but they make me gasp and smile and marvel at what people dream and do. I hope you like them, too.

You can see more here.

And another bit of art that I love – two of Chris March’s outstanding creation’s for Project Runway. Similar, but so gorgeous. Project Runway had some terrific designers this season – Jillian is a favorite, and infant terrible Christian is a monster-sized talent (I can’t imagine what he’ll be like at thirty or thirty-five) but Chris March is my favorite because he is self-taught (!) and because his strikes me as the heart that truly hungers for beauty.

On the list of things I’m grateful for – besides family and friends and health – I am grateful for art.

And from Buster:

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Piano Girl

    What a beautiful post on the joy of art, and how it relates to yet another of the great gifts of the Almighty. The Schubert Impromptu is my second-favorite piece of piano music by this genius, the first being his Grand Rondeau for piano four-hands. And of course, Schubert’s vocal music is some of the most gorgeous ever written. In the midst of gloom and doom, politics and bad weather, reading your words has lifted my spirits immensely this evening.

  • TexasAg03

    Excellent post. I love the paper sculptures.

    However, the video of “Will the Circle be Unbroken” is incredible. I have the CD and it is a phenomenal recording. One of the great American songs.

  • mizze

    Ah, nothing transports me quite like the majesty of the spiritual made physical. And though I’m a visual artist and a retired art teacher, nothing visual gives me goose bumps quite like the human voice singing! Except maybe this portrait of St Teresa of Avila, by Bernini.

  • Leslie

    I took my homeschooled children to Impressionist art show at the Phoenix Art Museum yesterday. The docent was knowledgable and engaging, and even my 9 year old son, was completely captivated. All the kids fell quiet and thoughtful. It was a thing of beauty itself.
    I think you are wrong about “having no art”. The seemingly effortless way you string together words, filled with lovely ideas, is art. Definitely a gift from God, and one I wish I was given.

  • HNAV

    Such a wonderful post…

    Encountered the expression of carved pieces of paper before. It is a classic student art project. Really challenges the conceptual and production, increasing the focus on the idea, limiting the choice in material.

    Some days I think making chocolate is the finest expression. However, the Wright Brothers were truly fine artists, creating this machine that could fly human beings in the air…

    Every time I see a tree, a cloud, a deer, the stars, I am reminded of God, who must be the greatest artist of all.

  • sbk

    Thank you for yet another insightful post.

    At a recent painting workshop I had an extraordinary discussion with a nationally recognized artist who has only been pursuing painting for about 5 or 6 years. We were talking about looking to other painters with whom to measure our own work as a road toward personal growth.

    He told me that he always made a point to compare his work to the greatest of masters, then asked if I knew why. As I said that no I didn’t know why, I was battening down my hatches for an egotistical answer. Instead I got, “God gave me a gift and why should I ever think that there is anything less for me than he would have given anyone else?” As we talked, his message was that if God was the fount of all creativity then he should not assume that as His vessel that there is a limit as to how much of that creativity is available to him.

    It was a stunning evening for me–the least of which was the concept of this type of discussion at a tony art opening. It left me with so much to ponder about my own creativity, the fear I have as I begin each project, and faith. Of course as divine timing would have it, the following morning the Sunday lesson was about how many times we are commanded to “fear not.” We studied how fear was the greatest enemy of faith–and for me the greatest enemy of creativity.

  • AngloCathJoi

    First of all, I want to state that I don’t for a moment believe that you have a “mushy mind.” I have read the blogs of people with mushy minds, and yours is not one of them. (non-linear is not mushy, GKC being a prime example)

    Second: This topic is one that has always held interest for me; I was an art major, but never much good at it. Very conceptual, not so hot on the details. Anyhow, it was when I watched Amadeus for the third or fourth time that it hit me. Some people are actually supposed to be Salieri. Salieri (the movie version, anyway) asked for a gift and was given a great one: to see the brilliance pf Mozart for what it was. The character threw that gift away petulantly, because it wasn’t the gift he asked for. But what if, I wondered, Salieri had thanked God for the gift that was given, and helped others to hear the voice of God in Mozart’s music?

    After all, most people never really hear or see unless someone helps them. One day I took a walk with a friend on the beach. I made an off-hand remark about how the colors of the waves changed as they rolled in. He said that they all looked the same to him, so we stood and and I helped him watch, and we identified 7 different colors in the waves as they swelled, rolled in, and broke. Then he, a musician, helped me listen to the waves, and we found 14 different sounds they made. And for a moment, the seer heard and the hearer saw.

    Ok, sorry for the length on this comment, just one more thing. One of the best things that a human being can do is to point others to goodness, truth, and beauty. You do that every day; you link to and point out so much beauty, and truth, and sheer goodness.

    Thank you.

  • Joseph

    I spent the better part of 20 years among art and artists, both my contemporaries and the masters of the past; and I did so both with their works and their lives. For at least the past 200 years, all art, including the greatest, has extracted an uncomfortably high moral price from its makers. When you see the lovliness of Monet, you do not know [and I cannot forget] that the cost of it was his wife Camille’s death from starvation, and an obsession so great that, instead of grieving, Monet set up an easel to paint the changes in color of the face of the corpse.

    When you see the sunflowers of Van Gogh, you see a world that he yearned for beyond the excruciating torment of what was probably clinical psychosis. And so many of the others–Manet, Degas, Gaugan, Lautrec, Whistler, Cezanne–led lives of moral squalor or thin-skinned hatred [as in The Gentle Art of Making Enemies] that are terrifying to confront. When you look at their lives, there is one thing that stands out most: like the seculars of today, they essentially have no hope and embody a yearning for trancendence in which they cannot truly believe.

    They left us beauty, which we can enjoy to the limit with the clearest of consciences, but, all the way to the present, it is hard to find an artist of sufficient humility and perspective not to be awash, at the very least, in what you would call venal sin and what I, as a Buddhist would call “the misery of misery itself”.

    Gvie thanks that you are not one of them. For a beautiful life with true hope for the future is worth more than the thousands of masterpieces, which will, sooner or later, crumble into dust or be forgotten, in all the museums of the world.

  • Viola Jaynes

    I am thankful to art as well. All kinds of art, all kinds of expressions.

    Buster did good in forwarding that clip. My husband is a musician and he loves to pick on his guitar, banjo and mandolin.

  • ivehadit

    You may like this online version of an art magazine, Anchoress. I emailed you also. Grateful for art, indeed!

    Art Galleries

  • kuvasz

    Dear Miss A,

    Know your writing is art. Never doubt it.

    Sarah Kuvasz