One of my favorite experiences while in India was a visit to the Reflection Art Gallery. It was refreshing to my artistic soul to learn that creating beauty through multiple forms of art mediums can have meaning and purpose beyond what our eyes can see. Art has the power to help in the healing process. It is a way of discovery that opens your mind. It has a major effect on the way a society thinks. And it can be a means to begin a relationship with the loving Creator of the universe.
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2: 10. Imagine how this scripture speaks to the soul of an artist. Workmanship in the original Greek text is written poiema meaning “that which is made.” He has made us in His image and we were made to create! So, for those of you who are artists; feel validated to be who God created you to be. For those of us who don’t feel like we are artists, we could be believing a lie. Every child at the age of 5 believes he is an artist. What happened?
My Personal Story
In high school I loved to paint, draw and sculpt and I think I may have even been good at it. I loved creating works of art and expressing myself in different ways! Somewhere along the way I thought it was selfish to create art. I thought the only one who would enjoy my creation was me. In my mind that made art a selfish activity. Besides, you can’t make money from it, right? So, if you have a family, isn’t art just a self absorbed activity? Or, so I thought. All this self criticism led me to believe that the things I created were ugly and it just wasn’t worth my time. I stopped creating. Nothing good would come from this useless waist of time.
Now, here I am in India 25 years later, and God has given me the opportunity to express what He is saying to me through paint. What a gift it was to learn how God uses art to communicate with people for healing, discovery, positive change, life, and and yes, even about Himself!
Art for Healing – Our Visit to a Girls Home
I don’t know that much about art therapy but, I’m learning that when used as a means to express the pain you can’t put words to, it can restore your soul.
On this trip we had the wonderful opportunity to visit a girls home where rehabilitation and restoration is happening! Girls ranging in age from 12 – 17 have been rescued from the streets, saved from a life of prostitution, and are in the process of healing. They are learning to express themselves and recover their worth in Christ. Jesus values these young ladies; He has a plan and a purpose for their lives. They are His poiema; His workmanship, created for the good works that God has planned for them!
We were there for about an hour as they showed us their art work. They shared with us the plans they had for the future, through the skills training they are receiving, and they even sang us a song to show the joy they have in Jesus! “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it,” echoed through the hallways of the concrete building where they live in a home hidden safe from harm. We ended our time in prayer and tears!
Art for Social Change – Can Art Really Change the way a Society Thinks?
Have you ever heard the statement, “Ideas have consequences?” What consequence do you think would play out in a society that believes that girls have less worth? Another question you might ask is, “What potential does art have to shape a society, and what do we believe about what it means to be human?”
Plato is claimed to have said: ‘Give me the songs of the nation, and it matters not who writes the laws.’ We heard about how Plato understood the power of art to shape and nurture society, and about how “Art comes at truth from an oblique angle, asking us to see things as if we had never seen them before” (quoting Steve Turner in his book “Imagine”).
During our visit to the Reflection Art Gallery we learn how ideas spread through a culture. You may think that laws change a society, but change doesn’t begin there. The transformation of a nation begins with its “intellectuals” through its priests, philosophers, and professors. Ideas spread through a nation first through intellectuals and disseminates out to the culture through popular music and arts. When the “Professionals” of a society grab hold of the idea then laws, politics and economics are influenced and then the idea takes hold of the common people; the public.
When the ideas of a culture (ideas that have negative consequences like, “girls have less worth”) take hold of a society, art, through films, songs, poems, and paintings, can be a strong medium to transform the mindsets of the people in a powerful but indirect way. Beliefs change, behaviors change and people turn their nation back to justice and a concern for humanity.
‘Creative Conscience’ is a community of friends consisting of both amateur and professional artists who wrestle with issues that affect both them and society at large. What brings them together is their friendship and a shared love of art and the dignity and sanctity of human life. Once a year they pick an issue they struggle to understand, spend a week in intense community, reflection, and creativity, sharing the outcome with a larger audience through an exhibition. Past workshops have dealt with such issues as religious violence, female foeticide, and economic disparity.
Enter in to the gallery for a closer look!
Art – Creative Engagement with the Good News
I live with a Christian world-view. As such I believe in God’s perfect plan for creation, the fall of mankind that created a broken relationship with God and others, and for the restoration of everything through a Savior. A Savior who gave His life to set in motion God’s plan of redemption.
I believe the Good News begins with the beautiful mind of a Creator who imagined all of creation and spoke it into existence. Like art on a blank canvas, He created the moon and the stars, the birds and the trees, the mountains and the oceans and the pinnacle of His creation; mankind.
He created man and woman in His own image, in His image He created us! “We were made to create, just like our Creator,” said the gallery director. “Can you imagine how creative Adam had to be to name all the animals, each and everyone of them?”
Each of us has the ability to imagine and create. Through the ministry of art, the Good News is communicated to those who create and for those who enjoy it. One example of an exhibit that depicts one man’s journey to discovery is found on the Reflection Art Gallery’s website. I welcome you to take a look!
Before the Womb – Beyond the Tomb by Joshua Koodathinal John, “is a search to make sense of that little dash in the middle of the title; that bit we call ‘life’. The tendency is to stare at the ‘dash’ because to look before and beyond means awakening our inner self to infinity and eternity and towards the One who inhabits it.”
Joshua explains, “Once you’re born the busyness of life seems to make it irrelevant to ask the question: Am I more than a biological phenomena? Or, did my prototype exist in some cosmic sketchbook before I got woven together in my mother’s womb? Could a fearful and wonderful artist have done the impossible and make me out of thin air? Could He have then hidden away answers for me to discover through the course of my life?
Similarly, once someone dies it seems irreverent to question where our near and dear ones have gone. Surely they are somewhere nice, upgraded to the next level without lack? Our answers, however, not only reveal where we place our hope but they also determine our day-to-day decisions. ”
Art can lead us to know the One ingenious Creator, who created us, and into a deep relationship of love and interaction with Him!