When I was younger, I got the idea that it wasn’t real art unless it was created by a famous (preferably dead) artist and it was hanging in a museum. Or at least, most of the artist’s work should be in a museum, and maybe the rest of was owned by a few very rich people. And the rest of us could buy reproductions of these very famous works of art. This probably had a lot to do with growing up in a house where most of the art was reproductions of famous paintings.
Mind you – I have nothing against famous paintings. If I were independently wealthy, I suppose I might want to have a Dali or a van Gogh on my walls. But there’s so much wonderful contemporary art, so much wonderful art by as-yet-unknown and barely known artists, not to mention the wonderful works of children and grandchildren, that I just don’t want to give up wall space to reproductions.
And so I seem to have been collecting art over the last few years. Art that I like. Lately a fair bit of sacred art. Some of it’s hanging in my house, and some of it’s in my office. I love all of it. The pieces I have at home speak to me on a more personal level. The pieces I have in my office, while they do speak to me personally, also offer opportunities for conversation. I’ve considered that in placing them.
So recently, when some friends suggested that my artwork was too valuable to display in my office and I ought to just hang it at home instead, I was dismayed. I think they are missing the point of art. But then, this can happen if we are only exposed to art in museums and then we just hang reproductions on our walls.
Art is not made for hanging in museums. I love museums. They allow all of us to have access to art that most of us couldn’t afford – so that’s a wonderful thing. Art is made to move us – to be in real places. Sometimes art is functional, sometimes just beautiful. Some art is temporal – there are installations that only last for a short time and when they’re gone, that’s it. They’re done. Some pieces are interactive. But temporal or permanent, interactive or static, art engages us. And in order to engage us, we must be able to experience it.
So I have artwork in my office. Yes, there is some risk. I suppose someone could come into my office and toss a cup of coffee onto some of my artwork. Or the ceiling could fall in. Although I have an awful lot of grandchildren, and, frankly, that could just as easily happen in my house. So I could treat my artwork as an investment. I could keep it safe by wrapping it all up in bubble wrap and storing it in a vault somewhere. It would be safe. It would e safe, but why would I bother to have it then?
In my office, my parishioners are able to experience it when they come to see me. They ask me questions about it. We have conversations about it. I get to see it every day. It enriches my life. If the ceiling collapses on my artwork, well, that would be a sad thing. But then, life is risk, isn’t it? Didn’t God take a risk when God allowed Adam and Eve to become fully human? If God has that kind of risk tolerance, then I think I can have some, too. And isn’t God an artist, after all? The psalmist says,
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4)
If God is the master creator, then I want to have a reflection of some of that beauty in my office. I’ll risk it. And if you happen by the church, stop in. I’ll show you my artwork.
That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.