11 Feb 2017

Prayerful Art

One of my homework assignments this term was to visit an art exhibit called "Mystical Landscapes" at the Art Gallery of Ontario... we were to find our preferred art piece, and spend some time with it. Not as art critics, but as prayerful Christians. We then shared some of our impressions during class.
One of the comments that came up was an awareness that we were privileged enough to see these masterpieces: despite free admission hours or reduced-fees, the exhibit itself still cost.

While the $12 upcharge is (in my opinion) absolutely worth it (the exhibit was truly breathtaking!), for many that cost becomes preventative.
I began reflecting, too, that the charge is not merely monetary:
* it costs the time to attend: time that some may need to be spending in gainful employment or with other commitments.
* it costs a desire to attend: not everyone enjoys art, or has someone to discuss what is seen with
* it costs a basic knowledge: of the exhibit, of the importance of art, of some of the major artists

The homework assignment was, for me, a pleasure. To stand in the midst of works by Van Gogh, Monet, O'Keefe - I have had worse assignments! I was surprised to have been attracted not to the art I had expected to grab me, but by a piece by an artist previously unknown to me.

Photo credit: The Rev Canon Mark Kinghan.
Used with permission.
The trip also made me reflect on where else we might find art: and here the church can play a significant role. We have astonishing art within our midst, that many of us may take for granted as we see it every day/week/Christmas-and-Easter. Our architecture tells a story; our landscaping tells a story; our stained glass windows tell a story.

Imagine if we embraced our buildings as an opportunity for prayer through their art.
Imagine if we all took some time to consider what is literally right in front of us with new eyes, not rushing on to something else, but intentionally clearing our minds of the to-do lists, turning off the cell phones, and simply appreciating the beauty that is right before us.
Maybe we can be awed by the carving of a pew end; or moved by the detail in the reredos. Maybe we can be amazed by the embroidery in the paraments, or be inspired to see the world differently through the colours in the glass.
Maybe just how we look at things may open new appreciation: light shows glass differently in the evening, sitting in a different pew may reveal a hidden perspective on the rood, the height of a candle may illuminate an unexpected carving.

The art is endless; the opportunity to engage in its beauty is only as limited as our willingness to do so. And, best of all, it is free. Not just for a privileged few, but for everyone in the community: from  those who ride past on the bus and barely notice, to those who walk by and glance at the building, even to those who find themselves entering the doors to seek out their comfortable pew.

We worship inside structures that have been constructed as a means for us to give glory to God. May we not take them for granted; may we not prevent others from seeing them; may we delight by prayerfully basking in that glorious art every chance we are able.

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