Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sand Art

My little gram was a self-taught artist. Her art and creativity were gifts of herself she freely shared with others. Mostly she did oil paintings, reproductions of the Masters. But one habit of hers drove us absolutely crazy. She thought nothing of covering over the canvas of a finished work and starting again from scratch with a completely different subject. We never let her live down the fact that she once cut off Mona Lisa's hands - yes, she chopped the bottom twelve inches off that painting so she could fit it on a different wall - go figure. But you know, there was always art springing forth from her brushes.

I'm always amazed at another group of artists who specialize in disposable art: sand sculptors. (Check out this sand nativity, a yearly event on the island of Gran Canaria). I mean, they spend literally hours coaxing tiny granules of sand into representations of life, knowing full well it will eventually be ruined by erosion and the elements. But the sculptors return to the beaches, year after year, to delight crowds with the products of their imagination.

What is it about artists who can create and just as readily dismantle their creation? I think it has something to do with their ability to let go. They delight in the process as much as in the product. Not hanging onto the past enables them to move forward. In the emptying of themselves into their work, they create space in which to be filled up again with fresh ideas, much like a flowing fountain. The process is for them; the product is for others. No process, no product.

This speaks to me in so many ways. Right now I'm reading a book called Velvet Elvis, aptly subtitled "repainting the Christian faith." It's opened my eyes to how desperately we try to achieve a sense of permanence in our faith. We want cut and dried, tried and true, when the reality is, "Christianity" is always changing. Not God or the work of Christ, but how we experience it all, and more importantly, how we live out our faith.

Think about it - 100 years ago, chances are we might have attended a church where men and women sat on different sides of the aisle, and church services lasted well into the evening. Five hundred years ago, we might have been accused of witchcraft by our fellow church members, or made to sit in stockade for some infraction of rules. I think it's easy enough to recognize and accept changes that have taken place over the centuries. What's more difficult is accepting changes over recent decades. Kids today are not going to experience faith the same way we did growing up. Most likely you and I worship differently today than we did as children. It's kind of like snapshots of your kids. They capture a moment in time but they're not your kid - they're just an image. Can we accept this constant changing and reframing, or do we cling to the past, to the framed art hanging on the wall that no longer adds to the story?

This speaks to me in the area of writing as well. I'm coming to learn that writing is a continual process, and hanging onto a few well-strung words does nothing to give life to the process. It's like shutting off the fountain and staring into the still pool of water, even after it begins to stagnate. It's not the collection of water (or words) that gives life, it's the continual flow. The reaching deep inside myself and giving out and being content with that process. Always growing. Always changing. Or at least being willing to grow and change.