Challenges Week 1: Art

I’ve decided to take a break from my usual posts and to look at grace (if it is possible) in a more abstract light. I’m being graceful with myself by giving myself a break and tracking what I am learning in the process. This series will run week by week through September 30th. And so I begin with a summary of this past week with a focus on art.

I am not a visual artist by nature. I appreciate beauty around me but do not record it with a visual media. God has instead blessed me with the ability to paint pictures with my words.

A bit of background:

For months I have suffered and am beginning to come out of Post Partum Depression. I could spend days in my home only going out to dump the garbage or get the mail and be “fine.” Recently however, I began to feel stagnant. Although challenged, I was not improving from the challenges in my life. I decided to summon myself to a series of tasks for the remainder of Spring and Summer which would help me grow in as many ways as possible. If I had fun in the process, that would be a huge bonus because fun definitely was not occurring on the macro level. So I began with a challenge to capture art in photographs.

I had 3 rules for the art:

  1. It needed to be geographically close to home
  2. It needed to be something I normally would not view as art.
  3. The focus could not be on nature as I am given to finding artistic inspiration in the outdoor world.

My hope was that this would bring me and my family to a better community awareness, help me to think outside the box, and increase my appreciation of those blessed with being visual artists. Little did I know it would do much more.

Day 1: I went to the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics and did a visual study in patterns on their campus. I knew much of what I found would be neccesary for structural integrity but the aesthetic variety these patterns contained surprised me. I began to take shots from different angles and discovered how to stand to keep my shadow out of the frame. The learning experience had begun.http://arts.vansd.org

Day 2: Mother’s Day and a busy day for my family and me. I took a look on one of my Pinterest boards at home since I didn’t have time to go anywhere. I found a piece I simultaneously love and hate, depicting a universe in a gum machine. An astronaut escapes out of the prize slot with a planet under his arm. As I wrote about it on Facebook, I became aware of the feelings it evoked in me. While the painting’s concept is amazingly creative and original, it evokes a trapped helplessness that nearly takes my breath away. I value the contemplation it caused. Being able to express these feelings brought clarity to some long forgotten part of myself.

Day 3: After the heavy emotions surfaced from day 2’s assignment, I decided to go easy on day 3. I took my son to the Vancouver Water Resources Education Center. This place is a favorite haunt of ours. Live sturgeon and baby salmon move about in tanks, playground equipment seems tailor made for his toddler body, and exhibits are well spaced. Plus, it’s free.

I have a tendency to only see what is on eye level, missing so much of the world’s beauty. I’ve written about this previously in my 2nd blog, Look up. I decided to go with this theme again and only take pictures of things above me. I began to discover new angles with which to capture the smallest pieces of subjects, a myriad of previously unnoticed bubbles around a school of tropical fish for example. I loved the way my heart and mind were opening to art around me. https://www.cityofvancouver.us/publicworks/page/water-resources-education-center

Day 4: I ran a reader’s choice contest to determine a winning shape among several choices. The winner was a red triangle. This contest lead to the least thrilling, most frustrating of all assignments for me. I began to notice red triangles everywhere, mainly when driving down the road at 50 mph. Missing these opportunities due to travel made me so mad I could spit! Red is an attention getter, so I’m not surprised this shape won, nor am I surprised at the sheer amount of red triangles out there. Road and warning signs were the easiest places to look, followed by mailboxes. Softer red triangles were more difficult to spot. I did manage to get the bend of an elbow in a red sleeve from a painting in my hallway however, The Butler’s Dance by Jack Vettriano. You can find more of his work at www.jackvettriano.com.

Day 5 and 6: I ran an additional contest in which I asked participants to guess the artist who made the painting containing the red elbow. The winner/s got to pick my next assignment. Two winners, two assignments. One chose interlocking circles, the other human-made elements within gardens.

The interlocking circles was the most challenging and rewarding of these tasks for me. I had to stretch my mind to the point of strain, chains after all are made of ovals and there is little in my immediate world which contains this element. In the end I included circles relying on each other as well as items containing overlapping roundness.

One of the most exciting days for me was day 6, spent at the NaturScaping Wildlife Botanical Gardens, in Brush Prairie WA. You can find more about this hidden treasure here: http://www.naturescaping.org. I ventured here with my cousin and son, spent about an hour leisurly strolling about the grounds, and still did not have time to take in all of its beauty. I got multiple pictures with evidence of man partnering with nature. This shoot was difficult in that once I published the pictures on social media, I realized cropping one of them would have made for a better photo. I am beginning to understand the beauty of an image sometimes stands out more when it is edited. Alas, my pride and impatience have begun to soften in this area, prehaps the biggest blessing of this experience thus far. I am tearing up as I write this and pray a spontaneous prayer, “God, continue to show me I have much to learn. To think I know it all is foolish. Help me to slow down and appreciate the beauty around me, to remember that You alone are perfect but that I cannot share Your perfection by rushing to get stuff checked off my list. Thank you for Your grace in that Your mercies are new each morning and thus I can serve you today afresh. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Well I was planning on sharing day 7 with you but feel like the title of the 7th day’s challenge alone is appropriate given the previous prayer: Hardware/Software. God continue to soften my heart as I humble myself through my experiences with Your potter’s hands.

Afterthoughts: I’m unsure about copyright laws regarding social media so will not post any of the art I placed on Instagram and Facebook on this blog. However, I did want to post a few pictures to give a taste of my discoveries, the theme being “Under my feet.” I’m extremely impressed with the piece from our fair city.

This week’s challenge stretched me personally with some very philosophical thoughts. I would like to open these up for discussion. Feel free to keep the conversation going in the comments.

My questions:

Ultimately what is Art’s purpose? I found a few this week and am curious which holds the greatest value to you.

  1. Aesthetics: just to be pleasing to the eye. Within this lies another question. Who determines good art vs. bad? Society? Well known artists? Or the indiviual, considering “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”?
  2. Functionality: Necessity dictates it and then art decorates it. Functionality is the 1st recorded human-made art in the Bible, Genesis 4:22 talks about a man who forged multiple tools out of bronze.
  3. To Save Lives: William Phelps Eno, for example, invented the stop sign, the pioneer project of all modern traffic protection. A very ineresting article regarding this can be found here: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2011/12/11/magazine/stop-sign.html
  4. To Provide Thought, Idea, or Create Discussion
  5. To Make Money: Herein lies the question for me, when does the artist sell out? I believe when making money becomes more important than the art itself. Within that question lies another, what if the money is neccessary for survival? Does the art become the catalyst for making money, the means to an end, or does the end become the all too consuming goal in which the art is no longer enjoyed?

It is my sincere hope that you have enjoyed this blog and will continue the discussion. Regardless of the questions I have, I remain grateful to God for giving gifts to us and for those who have shared their God-given artistic abilities with my community.

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