One Body, Many Arts
“I really struggled with art in high school. I just couldn’t make anything the right way.”
That’s what a friend said to me recently. In fact, what she declared is in line with what most people say about their own experience in artistic environs.
“I am not an artist.”
“I can’t draw anything right–not even a stick figure.”
Perhaps you have even said these things. Statements like these reveal a misunderstanding about what it means to be artistic by nature. We are creators by pedigree, manufacturers by design! The reason for this ontology flows naturally from our theology. We are all image bearers of the One who created all things, and He has given us an innate impulse to fashion that which is good with our hands and our vocal chords. Whether we craft our compositions with brushes on a canvas or with words and melody, our creative endeavors are expressions of our nature as image bearers of God.
Perhaps you are great at bringing order out of the chaos that is your “living-room-post-toddler-playtime.” Or you deftly design a front porch floral arrangement that overflows with the warm colors of Fall. Perhaps your palette detects the need for a pinch more salt or cumin in your skillet and you heartily add it in, anticipating the family’s applause that will come with the savoring. Or you formulate a lullaby that soothes your upset child. In all these situations, you are embodying the imago dei as a creator. You are artistic like He is!
Perhaps our problem is that we have married ourselves to the thinking that says all creators and artists must be accomplished in a certain means of production or attain to a certain ideal standard of work. If our work is not recognized by our peers, then we are not worthy of the mantle. The Rembrandts and the DaVincis are superior to the Rothkos and the DeKoonings. And what does that mean for the 1st grade crayon drawing hanging on the refrigerator? It is true that buyers will certainly pay more for the first 4 artists, but rarely give the fifth one–little Suzie–more than a polite nod and pat on the head.
But, let us be informed by the Scriptures, rather than the art critics in our museums and magazines and schools and even our own heads. In the Scriptures, we read that the body “is made up of many parts” (1 Corinthians 12:12). Paul continues to exhort the Corinthians to view all the parts of the body of Christ with equal dignity and importance.
In a similar vein, one abstract expressionist should not feel lowly compared to the photorealist, nor should the potter blush when in the company of the marble sculptor. The oil painter cannot look down upon the charcoal drawer, nor the lithographer scoff at the collage artist. Each one, regardless of the difficulty or ease of their own artistic medium, must understand that all have been created to imitate their Creator through their own distinct artistic enterprise! And each of our varied enterprises, once assembled en masse, helps to complete the tapestry that is the creativity of God on display in His people. We are indeed a body comprised of many arts!
So, before you feel the urge to castigate yourself as a hopeless artistic reject, prepare an answer-in-advance to speak to your heart. Proclaim the truth that you are a child of the Master Craftsman, created in His image, and that you have been given the gifting of being a creator. You are one who brings order out of chaos through thoughtful endeavors. You are one who brings beauty out of ashes through word and deed. You are one who brings light to bear upon darkness through work and artistry.