We are in motion.
Never in one place for more than a moment, ever shifting and growing and transforming, we change continually as we renew our search for what is true and holy. We seek the holy in the world around us, always on the tantalizing edge of grasping it in echoes and ripples. We feel its presence grow closer as we work our surroundings into ever-more-beautiful visions, create reflections and hints of what it must be, though we cannot see it directly. In slow-moving circles we orbit the ultimate, and attempt to describe it in word, paint, gesture, and song. This is the work of artists: to seek, to create. And in doing so, we leave behind us a record of where we have been and what we have become, revealing by slow process some traced outline of what we seek. Change is the only constant: searching, creating, revealing glory.
Change. This is our theme for Arts Fest 2007. Its genesis lies in a meditation on II Corinthians 3:18, the way in which we are transformed from one degree of glory to another, by the work of the Spirit, as we turn more and more toward the Lord in glory. Seeking God in the work of art is a never-ending process of trying to say something true about Something utterly beyond conveyance. While apophasis must ultimately be the endpoint of any attempt at expressing the Inexpressible, by way of the work of art we are able to extend our reach beyond mere words. Truth is conveyed in image, in sound, in gesture which, though rooted in a given cultural setting, transcend the ability of that culture’s words to speak. Art touches more deeply, and reaches higher, than talk.
That is not to say that we should have our heads in the clouds. Our work as Christians and as artists must have its feet firmly on the ground. The world around us is a world filled with brokenness, and to do the will of Christ requires us to live as real persons in the world. Artists are notorious in our culture for confrontation, controversy—even ugliness. Christians have often reacted by sequestering themselves in their own sub-culture: Christian music, Christian art, Christian fiction and film. And while the impulse to reflect on what is good and noble is a worthy one, creating a sanitized ghetto of Christian art misses the full depth of beauty and truth which can speak to us in the fallen world around us.
There is a prevalent confusion between prettiness and beauty. The two should not be conflated. While true beauty can be found in light and joy, it is also often birthed in pain, in blood, in death. This is, after all, how our savior came to us: in the gore of birth, the dirt of life, the blood and suffering of the cross. This is how our God renewed the holy Image in us, and united us to himself. We share in this crucifixion, and we also share in the resurrection, but the resurrection is not a polished prettiness. It is a beauty of still-open scars. The beauty of truth is a heavenly strangeness that needs not erase history in order to redeem it, a beauty that can be uncomfortable—even ugly. We need not fear art which reflects elements of this ugliness, this difficulty, this pain: it speaks to us of the truth of our fallenness, and of the path of our redemption.
Change is the only constant. Seeking demands that we move beyond what is familiar and comfortable. This is the work not only of artists, but of all of us. Caste in the Image of our Creator, we are all creative beings, and as we seek truth and beauty in creation, as we create our own works of word and image, we are transformed “from one degree of glory to another.” This is growth rooted in the Spirit, whom we reflect by seeking, creating, and revealing glory.
We are in motion. To grow we must be willing to move. To move we must not be too comfortable with where we are. Growth is challenging, sometimes even painful. But pain in service of truth is the deeper beauty, the beauty of love.