Sunday, February 4, 2007

Spiritually Formed through the Visual Arts

We are what it is we give ourselves over to; we become that to which we apply our attention. For many of us, the influence of the visual arts upon our formation as persons comes mainly from the marketing, sports, and entertainment sectors of society. This cultural imprinting can outweigh that of the spoken and written word; its effects can be both significant, and silent.

The arts have this effect on us, and we are not always able to describe what we are experiencing. This is in part because art mirrors the viewer and the artist as through the same looking glass. It is also because we have not always developed the awareness of how we are influenced by what we see. Asking someone about their reaction to a particular piece of art, they may describe the technical skill of the painter, or speak of how it prompts them to recall a memorable time in their life. This drawing of connections, this making of relations between viewer and art maker and art is also true in our spiritual lives. An intentional practice of reflection on scripture while viewing visual art can develop our spiritual sight in several simple but nonetheless useful ways. We grow to appreciate how the visual world around us embodies and reflects God's creation. We experience ordinary daily moments that lead to personal insight. Visible signs of Christ's presence in today's world begin to reveal themselves through the work of the artist.

Mel Ahlborn
President, Episcopal Church & Visual Arts, Inc.