The term ‘Christian artist’ seems to be a contradiction in terms and in lived experience. Christians are meant to be humble. Artists have to be self-promoting. One is to be self-less, the other survives by ego.
Sometimes we proceed in quietness and confidence in the secluded studio, but we also shout from the rooftops when we open an exhibition. Art, it is said, is a right brain activity in creating yet also left-brain in planning and execution.
We hope to be all things to all people but settle for being something to someone – to at least have a niche market, a loyal following. Art is a gift, an act of freedom, yet it can be an addiction. How else can one explain the costly need to produce beauty and meaning with so little financial gain? But not all – we are called to create. Only some are chosen for success in the commercial sense. Others are juried and viewed, feted, promoted; yet our sustenance comes from elsewhere. Our studios flow and run over. It can feel like the sound of one hand clapping. It is however, for the clapping of only One.
One of my professors, Landon Mackenzie, explained to us that our culture has not figured out what to do with the products of art. She has work in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, yet storage of her unsold works is an ongoing challenge. In the face of paradox, nothing stops her from getting her message out there. The works of beauty and meaning are awesome. The first time I came across her rich work at the Vancouver Art Gallery I prayed that I could get into her class. At first I tried and failed by breaking an ankle to which she prescribed some ‘Chardonnay therapy’. Next term I got in and produced my own best, unsold, work in her class.
I wonder this early morning, as I overlook the backyard mountains, if my work is a lavish gift to me, if not to the world. All of these ideas, the ongoing backbreaking work, and all of this education and promotion in God’s economy – is it just for me? It gives me the richest of lifestyles, a never-ending parade of life-giving images. I awake each morning brimming with creation and – donate my work. Only God would plan this paradox. I create my own visual world and live within its Louvre-like walls. I am covered with feathers but thankfully no tar.
In Proverbs 31 we read: “Her children rise up and call her blessed… and let her own works praise her at the gates”. I work hard for the future in whatever form the praise comes. Yet I do not work. I merely allow it to flow and overflow surrounding and permeating every fiber of my being. I pray that I will not become like the Dead Sea, so full of minerals that nothing can live in the waters. I need to give more workshops to keep the coloured water of my life moving forward. No stagnation for me.
My work is only a by-product of my abundant life. My mind goes off in a dozen directions yet stays on one track: paint – then get the work out there in whatever way you can. Its what you do. It consoles and desolates simultaneously.