When I was young, there was something in me that wanted to respond. Still, I couldn’t. “I don’t see it” and “I don’t hear it” were words I thought and sometimes uttered. In my college humanities class the professor would excitedly deconstruct a piece of art or music and I would be lost. “OK. . . I believe you. . . but really???” In hindsight I didn’t get it because I just didn’t feel it.
As I got older, two things happened. One was that my understanding increased. I was reading folks like Hans Rookmaaker and Francis Schaeffer. They would talk about staring at paintings and letting the paintings “speak” to them on behalf of the artist, culture, and worldview that birthed them. OK. . . that started to help me make some sense out of it all. I also started to pay a little more attention to the music I was drawn to. . . thinking about the lyrics, researching the back story, and realizing that this was all more than just entertaining background noise.
The second thing that began to open my eyes was the fact that life was happening around me. More specifically, life was happening for and to me. The hopes, fears, joys, sorrows, questions, realizations, and disappointments of my life were combining in a mix that increasingly brought certain musical and visual cultural artifacts to life for me. They were saying what I wanted to say. They were mirroring things I knew to be true. They were taking me deeper and deeper into unseen realities that were offering me hope. Like the young middle school kid who introduced me to the music of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana some twenty years ago, my explanation for what I was drawn to was quite simple: “This guy’s singing what I feel.” That’s the transcendent power of art.
There’s lots of music and art that I’m drawn to. Over the years, there have been some pieces that continue to move me whenever I stop to look and listen. Pearl Jam’s classic video to their song “Jeremy” continues to hit me in the gut, even after seeing it hundreds of times. Sometimes the truth art tells is pretty doggone ugly.
Recently, an artist who moves my soul with depictions of often-ignored, overlooked, and unseen realities is David Arms. His “God’s Story” painting is amazing. I often refer to it in my mind during the course of a day as a reminder of the big picture that I know is swallowing up my own story. It’s a painting that never gets old. In fact, like good art should, it reveals new realities about life every time I look at it.
Yesterday I spent some time on David Arms’ website looking at his paintings. It was overwhelming actually. It was like being a kid and popping the lid on a trunk full of treasures. I’ve decided to spend time over the next few months focusing on and listening to one painting every week for the simple reason that this is art that tells the truth. . . and moves me. I don’t want to miss the trees for the forest.
Today, I’ve been locked in on his painting titled “Free.” David Arms describes it this way: “The cross frees us from bondage to all those things that weigh us down…guilt…need for approval…fears – weight that God never intended for us to carry. But He freed us and made available to us a peace that passes all understanding.”
Wow! I see God and I see myself in this picture. I hope it speaks to you as well.