My wife and I recently went to The Speed Art Museum for a date day. The Speed has a variety of art styles spanning centuries of human history. One room or gallery will exhibit one style or era or culture’s art or art history, and when you turn the corner, you may walk into a room with a completely different feel, cultural background or context than the space you were in 30 seconds ago. There is a shift in perspective then, that is forced or coerced so that the visitor is taken on a journey throughout the breadth of human creativity.
While we were walking, my wife asked me if I thought that ‘high school me’ would have anywhere near the appreciation or understanding that I have today. And, of course, the answer would be no. I used to be very skeptical of ‘Modern’ art, and openly mocked efforts that I deemed possible for a toddler to reproduce. Even some classical art fell under my scrutiny for various reasons. I didn’t understand individual movements, let alone the progression from one form to another. I didn’t see value where I didn’t understand value to already exist.
Pictured here is Sfumato,by Teresita Fernández, a piece made very recently in 2005. It’s a simple piece containing glass cubes placed directly on the wall. It’s the type of piece that I would have seen in high school, thought was interesting, but would have passed over as being ‘actually art.’ It falls under the realm of ‘cool’ or ‘interesting’ but would not have left me with any more reaction than a passing glance would have afforded.
Today, as an adult (as someone who spent hours and hours in a humanities program in college and who is married to an art lover) I can see more clearly, and I can extend appreciation for art that doesn’t sit bounded in by a frame, for pieces that don’t require a Leonardo or a Pablo attached to it in order for me to see its value.
When I looked at Sfumato last week, I saw the church. I saw all the individuals who gather in Christ and who reflect and redirect His light. I saw individuals making up a collective whole. I saw individually crafted pieces, set in a particular way, that while they do not directly interact with one another, they complete a larger image. I saw people with different talents, different backgrounds, different cultures coming together. Remade, re-imagined and re-purposed by the one who is setting the scene of eternity.
If you turned one, twisted it, removed it or replaced it with something else…it would have been glaringly obvious. Each one has its place for a reason. Each one spaced closer to one and farther from another with a greater vision in mind.
I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My wife and I have different styles that appeal to us more so than another, and that’s totally fine. And she may look at Sfumato and see something totally different than what I see. But I see Romans 12 at work on a wall in a secular art museum.
I see the body of Christ being drawn in and carrying a single identity as she is in process of coming together. Each one sculpted according to one standard. I see as casting off of individual desire for a greater will. I see uniformity in purpose, a shared purpose. Each one receiving the same light, standing on the same pure white field, but still maintaining its own perspective, its own place and its own context while still pointing toward that overarching, external influence.
We all see different things from wherever we stand, but we who are in Christ must also keep in mind that the end result is not about us, but about God and what He is doing. He is the artist, we must trust in His plan.