Sacred Art Makes Sacred Space

A while back, I wrote about why I think it’s important to have original artwork – to be able to experience art.  Recently, a reader suggested that I post pictures of my sacred art collection (which I’d mentioned in Real Art For Real People) so that maybe others could get an idea of how to start.  So here goes!

These are photos of the sacred art that I have in my office.  I have more artwork in my home, but I thought this would be a good representation.  In my office, the art helps to create a sacred space.

IMG_2112This icon of St. Sophia and her three daughters was the first piece in my office collection.  An icon is functional – it’s meant to be used for prayer – but function can be a work of art.  St. Sophia is all about wisdom and her daughters are Faith, Hope, and Charity.  There are magnificent antique icons available at high-end galleries, but I thought this was quite lovely, and even though I know it was produced with tourists in mind, it’s beauty isn’t diminished.  So she sits on my desk.

IMG_2113And while I’m on the subject of functionality, even pieces that have been created expressly for function, such as this singing bowl, have artistic value.  This bowl has been crafted with care, inside and out.  It’s beautiful to listen to, to hold, and to view.  It sits on my desk along with the smaller singing bowl that you can just view in the upper left corner.

FullSizeRender-1This prayer wheel also sits on my desk, and again, it’s both functional and beautiful.  When you pick it up and spin it, it magnifies your prayers.  People who come into my office often try it out.  I love when we can interact with art.

IMG_2108Art needn’t be expensive, nor created by established artists.  The flaming chalice is the symbol of Unitarian Universalism.  This flaming chalice art in a mosaic style (marker on paper) was created by a first-grade Sunday School class. I bought it at the church auction where I served as a ministerial intern.  I love this piece.  The kids put their hearts into it, and they all did a different bit and then put it together to make the whole. And I got into a bit of a bidding war for it!

IMG_2107 This is another piece from another church artist (from yet another church).  This piece was on exhibit at my home congregation.  The entire exhibit featured the golden mean as represented in the nautilus shape.  This particular piece is made of paper tags, each with an individual design based on the nautilus spiral, all coming together to make a larger spiral.  This really spoke to me. I think Phi is the most beautiful number – I think God is present in this number.  And the Phi is represented in the nautilus spiral and has other theological implications. So it hangs behind my desk.

IMG_2106This is a Buddhist mandala that is hand-painted on silk.  It happens that there’s a Himalayan store near the church that I serve, and they carry these.  Each is a little different.  They’re meditation pieces, and quite beautiful.  So when I saw them, I decided to save up for one, and then spent some time in the store looking for the one that spoke to me the most.  I’ve chosen to drape the cover a bit.

IMG_2109This is Icon VI by the Canadian artist Paul Roorda.  I first encountered his work at an exhibit in the Dadian Gallery at Wesley Theological Seminary, and when this piece came back for a gallery retrospective, I decided that it would make a lovely graduation present to myself.  The photo doesn’t really do it justice.  These are the gilt edges of Bible pages and some of the leather bindings.  I think it’s just stunning and a bit mesmerizing.  And I think it speaks, pardon the pun, volumes.  It looks different in every different light, and that’s part of the beauty.  And it hangs right next to the first-grader’s flaming chalice art.

IMG_2110 And finally, there is Fred.  Twenty-Two-Year-Old named him Fred.  He’s actually called Tuning To Prayer.  Fred was part of an exhibit called “Amen – A Prayer for the World,” which showcased 48 Egyptian and western artists, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish, all of whom created works of art around the theme of prayer from fiberglass forms in one of four prayer poses.  Fred is the creation of artist Amy E. Gray, who considered the ways in which prayer is similar to playing the harp (think about the need for refining and tuning).  And I’m delighted to call Amy a friend.

I love Fred. He sits right across from me as I work. He’s pretty much the centerpiece of my office.  He’s a great conversation starter – with three-year-olds and seventy-three-year-olds and everyone in between.

I have a few other things hanging in my office – but not what I would put in the category of sacred art.  Still, they’re all things that I want in there.  All things that I want to look at on my walls and on my desk. Or – in Fred’s case – sitting across from me.

Some of my pieces have been gifts.  One or two have been truly extravagant purchases.  The bulk of my collection are pieces that I like that have been well within what I could afford to pay.  Art doesn’t have to break the bank. Art can be a mosaic flaming chalice made by a bunch of first-graders. If you like it, if it speaks to you – hang it on your wall!

Do you have some art? I’d love to see it here.

That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.

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