Some time ago, I wrote about a watercolor a friend of mine had painted, years past. The painting was of a flower of seemingly infinite hue which seemed to be unfolding continuously. If I had to choose a physical image of divinity, it would be that flower, complete with its utterly appropriate name, “Untitled.” After I wrote about this, I sent a copy to my friend. The painting had sold long ago, but I felt she deserved to know how much her art meant to me.
Last month I received a small package in the mail. In it was a different painting, acrylic this time, and fired with oranges, reds, and yellows, whirling in unending vortex. Where the last piece suggested to me a blossoming out, this one draws me in, suggesting an inner journey that is neither safe nor sedate – but that is unquestionably exciting. On the back was written, “To Dan – Not the original, but I hope you enjoy.” The piece itself was, of course, untitled.
It is easy to let the search for truth and meaning become solely intellectual. Religion and spirituality should make sense – Unitarian Universalists like myself feel especially strongly about this; the use of reason in religion is our special heritage. Still, there is a part of the mind that can only be touched by art – whether it be painting, sculpture, music, poetry, dance or theater. It is part of every culture in the world, and to ignore or neglect it is to miss a fundamental aspect of what it means to be human.
Art expresses the inexpressible and teaches the unreachable. At its best it awakens the deep parts of ourselves and reminds us of the unfathomable greatness of being. Whether it fills us with wonder, joy, fear, sorrow or comfort, art carries with it the power to transform.
I’m deeply grateful to my friend for that painting. It helped me look inward and it reminded me to make time to look outward.
I think I’ll go to the museum next weekend.