Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Art is a Form of Prayer

Humans, in their higher capacities, are able to express reason and logic. It's what separates humans from other animals. We as humans, in our highest capacity, are able to express creativity; self-expression and the pursuit of spirituality, it's what connects us to the universe. I may not believe in, nor comprehend, the concept of reincarnation, but I do strongly believe that energy expended in the universe is recycled and repurposed. In connecting with God, the universe, and even other people, oftentimes we do not have the right method to convey what our heart truly means to say. It may also be the case that the message that needs to be shared is much more spiritual, much more complex, and possibly much more intimate. This is why I believe that art is indeed a form of prayer. Energy invested into creativity can either be an act of praise or a cry of surrender to God, the universe, or even oneself.

The Baha'i faith prescribes creativity as a way of navigating life. Actor Rainn Wilson from the hit television show, "The Office," describes creativity as viewed through his faith, "The making of art is no different than prayer. Being creative and being a creator is the ultimate testament to the Great Creator, God." To create from our core and our essence is spirituality. Even if what you are creating from your core or essence is dark and  disturbing, it is no different than that desperate plea for help from God - that midnight prayer of bargaining and surrendering. Christians are very inclined to be offended and label blasphemous, anything that alludes to spirituality but is referenced by a different name, but our essence, our core, it's just another name for our soul. It's that simple. 

If individuals create dark and disturbing art as a cry for help and beautiful, colorful art as an act of praise or rejoicing moment, then how do we interpret the abstract? My theory is that abstract art is a mirror for hope. Everyone wants to be understood, so it's a natural progression to assume that every artist wants their work to be understood. The Bible says in Roman 8:24-25, "But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." The clearest implication is that artists use their imagination for things that are hoped for. Reality is most tangible and easily visualized  and understood, so it's hard to project majesty into reality. Majestic works of art are used as an escape medium for those who suffer through reality, both for the artists and the audience. The fantasy of art is a prayer to God for better days and better circumstances. The most abstract portrait created for us is the picture of eternal life in heaven. At some point in history, it is my best guess that an artist, a troubled soul, decided the best way to sell the idea of eternal paradise was to paint the picture visually for those who were skeptical. Did it help us to believe? I can't answer that question, but I have actually experienced chills at the sight of some religious art works and I would not fight the idea that they serve as pure, vehement reverence to God. 

When I think of Leonardo da Vinci's painting "Last Supper," Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," John Donne's "Death Be Not Proud," or Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own," and all of the old negro spirituals written in angst, I envision prayers of grace, compassion, acceptance, desperation, and freedom. I then asked myself why the best work comes from those who have experienced what seems to be the worst in life and I'm reminded of Maya Angelou. She states, "There's no greater agony than bearing a untold story inside of you." Our stories are all told in different ways, from paintings to songs, to even the darkness and heaviness in the late Alexander McQueen's clothing designs. Art is how we tell these stories and just like prayer, art sends energy from our core, our essence, our souls, into the universe and someone receives it; God receives it, the universe receives it. The understanding and appreciation of one's art, the joy music brings, the inspiration people draw is that energy repurposed.  Just like a prayer. 

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