Saturday, September 27, 2008

Painting Christ

The other day, I decided to decorate my New Testament folder.  I decided to paint a picture of Christ.   This is the second time I have done this.  Both times I have been impressed by the feelings I have gotten while doing it.  It is by far the hardest thing I have ever tried to paint.  I feel so inadequate to the task because in getting ready to paint Him, I have to think about what he is and what he means to me.
He is the Son of God.  He is my Savior and Redeemer.  He was the only perfect person to live on the Earth.  My older brother who loved me enough to suffer and die for me so that I could return to be with my Father in Heaven again.  I love him and want to follow him with all my heart.  
How can I presume to capture even a fraction of this in my painting?  I understand very well the stylization of the Iconographer's style.  I feel like I can create a symbol which means Christ much better than I can actually represent him.  Much of art history really inspires me because so much of the art of the past was created to honor and worship God.  As an artist I feel I can learn a great deal about worship from the examples of these earlier religious artists, whether or not they are Christian.  Art in the past was often very very expensive and the money alone does honor.  Often I think since the time of the Reformation, Protestant (and therefore LDS) churches have frowned the idea of lavish ornamentation.  But I think that it is a definite worshipfulness about it, much like the woman who anointed the Lord.  Another thing I like about historical religious art is the symbolism.  Images like the good shepherd, Peter with the keys, and even the image of the halo allow us to visualize and therefore better understand abstract ideas.  
The picture I decided to paint was a very common Early Christian symbol of Christ, that of Christ as the good shepherd.  This image I find to be very true to my image of Christ because I often feel him in my life reaching out to me when I feel lost.  It is not quite done yet.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Consider the Lilies

The other day, I was reading Matt. 6.  Then in Sunday School the lesson was on Pride.  The teacher quoted President Ezra Taft Benson who said "Pride is the Universal Sin" and defined pride as enmity.  We went on to discuss how we battle pride in our lives.  This discussion immediately made me think of what I had read in Matthew.  When I went back and looked it seemed that the entire chapter was about pride.  Christ starts out on a religious theme discussing seeking "the  glory of men" (Matt 6:2) and "Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth" (Matt 6:3).  This section seems to me to discuss the "holier than thou" attitude.  In two ways, first that we seek to convince ourselves of our piety through extravagant gestures to build up our pride and secondly that we seek to build ourselves up over others by showing off to them our devotion.  At then end of this section Christ reminds us of the greatness of God and our own insignificance saying, "your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him" (Matt. 6:8).  He then demonstrates the proper form of a prayer.  The prayer of the Savior is very humble  asking for forgiveness and admitting the power and glory of God.  
The next poignant passage I came across was "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matt. 6:19-21)  If our treasure is the things of this world, our heart will be set on pride.   "No man can serve two masters" (Matt 6:24); we cannot serve ourselves and God. 
Then Christ begins to compare us to the animals and plants.  He reminds us that our Father takes care of the sparrows and the lilies.  I loved the image when he says "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow' they toil not neither do they spin:And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Matt. 6:28-29).  This made me think of art.  As artists, we love to exhault our creations, but it is true that even the greatest painting and sculptures cannot compare to that which God created.  But not only in art, we make a huge fuss over new scientific advances in machinery, but we can produce nothing which remotely compares to the complexity and effectiveness of a plant leaf.  
The final parting thoughts are "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt 6:33).  These same words are echoed in the Book of Mormon particularly when we are talking about pride as Jacob 2.  One of Christ's messages through out the ages has been that we should forget ourselves and press forward with single to the light of God.  But to have that eye singled means we cannot be looking down from our pride-built pedestal on our fellowmen.  We must remember that we need to look up.