“I will preach with my brush.”
-Henry Ossawa Tanner
As an artist, this quote by Henry Ossawa Tanner speaks to me: art speaks from the depths of our being, expresses our spiritual understanding, and can shed the light on truth when no preached words can do so.
I’m part of an art group at my church, and it’s been a blessing to share with those in the group. We recently had a gathering in which one of the artists shared the story behind one of her paintings – a deep and involved dream that made the painting come alive, once the story was known. It will be part of an upcoming show at church – and we decided that the story itself was so valuable to understanding the piece, that we’d add story-captions to each of our work as desired.
Other times, the spiritual meaning comes through even without a caption – the movement of paint, the quality of line, the expression on a subject’s face can communicate volumes. And often without explanation, art speaks to viewers uniquely, taking on a multitude of meanings among an audience.
We must allow the light within us to shine in our creations. Whether a full story enlightens viewers, or the art speaks on its own – shying away from the truth in our hearts does a disservice to ourselves as artists … as well as the One who created us!
A trivia bonus: There’s a well-used quote attributed falsely to St Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.” While the misattribution is unfortunate – the message is clear. Walk the walk – because by our actions, God’s love is known.