"Fly" by Judith Kindler *
Mixed Media including encaustics / oil on panel
80" x 36"
Defining Truth can seem near impossible in a culture saturated with confusing language, advertising schemes and the search for the politically correct. And yet, the process of art-making can be likened to this yearning for Truth (capital T).
Daniel Siedell in his book God in the Gallery* asks the question "Can one experience Truth aesthetically without knowing Truth cognitively?" In other words, in viewing and responding to art, are we viewing and responding to Truth and meaning, whether we are from a Christian context or not?
Moreover, I would ask, can we dialogue with and immerse ourselves in Truth in our process of making art? "The power of art relies on the belief that smelly oils, rough canvas, graphite, and other banal materials can provide a profoundly aesthetic experience. [These materials] are material means by which a window of the world as it truly is, as a spiritual and divinely charged reality, is thrown open." In other words, there is a common "belief required of all artists, the risk and wager that out of banal materials, something of meaning and significance will emerge"(66-67).
I'll admit, a part of me enjoys a glamorous conclusion about the hours and hours spent in my studio; that the wrestling with raw materials for days on end will produce meaningful and significant works of art that will both engage and challenge viewers to dialogue with Truth. Sounds ideal. Sounds refreshing. Sounds a bit utopian, in my opinion.
And while I agree significance and meaning can and often do come about through the process of making art (and in the end result of responding to the art created), many days we artists are doused with a mixture of self-doubt, worry, and a whole host of fears. We can sometimes feel like we're drowning in ordinary, earthy, raw materials and feel frustrated at the end of the day because we (as well as our art) might be "misunderstood." Or perhaps, we feel the pangs of disillusionment when our work doesn't match what we had imagined in our heads. And sometimes (maybe more often than we'd like), our art-making doesn't feel so holy, so meaningful, so significant and we wonder "what in the world am I doing?"
It's in moments like those just described, I remember the Eucharist. The banal elements of bread and wine invite participants to think upon and show communion with eternally significant things, namely the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins. So in some ways, the process of art-making may be likened to the Eucharist. To reword the above quote from Siedell: "The power of [the Eucharist] relies on the belief that [stale bread, and luke-warm grape juice] can provide a profoundly [spiritual] experience. [These materials] are material means by which a window of the world as it truly is, as a spiritual and divinely charged reality, is thrown open." In other words, there is a common "belief required of all [Christians], the risk and wager that out of banal materials, something of meaning and significance will emerge" (66-67).
Let us press on, then, in our reconciling of common, earthy materials for the making of meaningful, significant pieces of art, music, literature, etc. And may God guide our hands and thoughts, and grant us glimpses of His Truth both in the making and the viewing of art.
* From Judith Kindler's body of work "Defining Truth."
* Siedell, Daniel. 2008 God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2008.
[This book is available for loan through Trinity's library.]