Allowing Ourselves to be Seen by Art.
My wife, a visual artist and art history professor, has a studio in a plain storefront in a small New Hampshire village. There, she and her business partner teach yoga and put on occasional shows of their art. Last year, in memory of September 11, they had someone sit all day in their two storefront windows, meditating. On the side of the building, on a blank brick wall, are several reverent images made in mud and straw by the local teenage yoga students, showing themselves in meditation.
A person sitting in a store window, silent and still in meditation, is a kind of artwork, an image for the passersby to consider. The mud wall sculptures also have a quiet nobility, reminding anyone who sees them -- including those who are puzzled by them -- that meditation is an essential part of life.
My wife and her partner are quietly helping the world shift from the twentieth century -- when it seemed proper to separate art, religion, and life; when religion was understood to be a matter of dogma, institution, and obsession with repressive morals -- into the twenty-first century, when both spirituality and art are returning to their place of central importance.
I define religion at its best as a positive and effective means of relating to the mysteries that define our lives: love, death, birth, illness, marriage, and work, to name a few. A twenty-first century mentality sees these not simply as areas of normal living or as problems with which one must deal but also as mysteries. A twenty-first century religion sanctifies them with sacraments, rituals, sacred stories, and sometimes guardian spirits. The arts serve this kind of religion by giving us strong images for contemplation, for reflecting on the life-defining mysteries, and for educating ourselves so we can live them out more creatively.
Some people go to great trouble to see a special image and to be seen by it, as the Harvard scholar Diana L. Eck has described beautifully in her book Dars
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|Title Annotation:||religion through art|
|Publication:||Spirituality & Health Magazine|
|Article Type:||Brief article|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2008|
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