I pause for art. (And if you’re visiting Segullah, chances are you do, too.)
More than once, I’ve happened upon a temporary visual arts display in the main lobby of my children’s high school. Attracted first by the colors and lines, ultimately the potential for discovering talent pulls me further into the exhibit. Pushing down my other priorities, my curiosity emerges like a diver’s body shooting up from the bottom of a pool. I pop out of the water and blink away the daily distractions, rising to witness youth uncovering their gifts. I justify spending time, expecting their work to move me. And it does.
A bulging blue and red heart (the muscle, not the cartoon) in acrylic looks like it will beat right off of the canvas. A photograph taken beneath bleachers illustrates perspective as the foreground of intersecting light and shadow introduces a blurred figure standing at the distant point. The life-sized self-portrait of a young man attempting to figure out who he is dares me to venture a guess.
My sense of wonder extends beyond the visual arts. At my daughter’s first dance competition, I scooted across a bleacher, fixated on the routine already in progress on the gym floor. My throat swelled, and I felt surprise-tears welling in my eyes. The music loud and fluorescent lights even louder, I froze, avoiding bleary eye contact with other spectators. What was wrong with me?! Never before “my scene,” the sequined dolls with their layers of makeup and coordinating spandex became more than all that. Their determined faces, defined muscles moving to music, all the hours of effort behind their technique, and the expression of thought and emotion via these growing bodies — they were both art and artists. My daughter wasn’t even dancing yet, and I melted.
I tear up at my son’s band concerts, too. And he plays the trombone. Why am I crying?! The same line of reflection, it seems. Sometimes, as the strings lilt and the horns resound, I escape into the music’s story. Other times, I consider the conductor, who steps onto the stand, leading students dressed in concert black and seated in semi-circled order. She barely earns a living wage, yet shows up every day to face our often indifferent teenagers, miraculously extracting skill and expression from them. They’re becoming musicians. I barely move.
I marvel at this creativity gene in our spiritual DNA. All of us, from the occasional crayon user to the full-time filmmaker, come endowed with the aptitude for art. As the ultimate artiste, our Creator arranged masterpieces here in this earthly museum, featuring symmetrical flower petals and spilling waterfalls, psychedelic-feathered birds and mystical red rock canyons.
With God’s masterstroke, we gained bodies, and within us, the power to create. And not only (though not always) other humans. With every poem, graffiti mural, woven basket, or gourmet meal, we tap into part of our promise. When we make art, we mention our own divinity. This pattern of creative perpetuation epitomizes the concept of eternity. Our heavenly parents created us, and as we create, we progress. As we progress, we create. And so on.
Creation embodies the essence of possibility, which is why the art within us compels me. The combination of God-given gifts and our discovery of them is born in pieces that heal, provoke thought, and generate happiness. For instance, I’m not only satisfied upon crafting a tightly-written paragraph — I’m joyful. I’ve felt so moved when viewing a sculpture or experiencing a piece of musical theater, that like a baby bird, I imprint on it, following it around in my mind for days or longer. Chihuly’s glass in Seattle, Maya Angelou’s, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings from my college library, and my daughter’s penguin couple watercolor on our fridge all honor their earthly and the heavenly creators. I join in the tribute as I appreciate their work.
At the end of my latest stroll through high school art, I walked back through the display, taking photos of those created by artists in my stake. That evening, I sent a congratulatory message to the mother of one of the young men whose photograph won Best of Show. It turns out, he never even told her he entered. Or even took the photo! I posted it along with the others to our Stake Young Women’s Instagram account, just in case someone else might want to pause for art, too.
What piece of art has caused you to pause recently?