Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Remembering How it Felt

A long time ago, in a land far far away, someone important to me made an insightful observation. He said that I never really thought about something until I wrote it down and I never really felt anything until I painted it out. I took it as a compliment, and I think that he meant it as such, but over the past few days I have been thinking about this part of me that needs to create. The part of me that finds its voice in the written word and painted image.

In truth it is a part of me that has only been expressed in random bits and pieces. Yes, I write this blog and I journal like it is my last life line to sanity, but it has been years since I have given myself the freedom to paint. There was a time in my life when I could pick up a brush and lose days in front of a canvas. I would stand before the clean white surface and answer its challenge with alternating fury and compassion. I would command the colors to bend and blend to my will. I would fight back the elements of chaos that tried to steal the clarity of the image and I would bring a whole new reality in existence with my finger tips.

I would later awaken, soiled brush in hand, to stare at the marvel I had birthed and wonder how I could have ever created such a thing. Sometimes in blissful amazement, at others in grim acceptance, and still at other times with horror.

But there came a season in my life when my painting became the object of scorn. The time I spent lost in this fabulous and terrifying place was resented by another person very important to me, so I stopped. I packed away all my brushes and tried to ignore the paintings that begged to painted. I visited occasionally, but that is all I allowed myself. A visit, a few hours, a carefully doled out period of time when I thought it was safe, when I knew I was in no danger of losing myself to the process. Eventually, I stopped even this. It was far too painful and never satisfying, merely a bleak reminder of what I had left behind.

As life continued, I had to worry about providing for my children. Survival depended on constant vigilance and every drop of energy had to be poured into making a living, going to school, or some pretense of housekeeping. Painting just demanded too much. So my brushes sat in the cabinet, safely out of sight, but never out of mind.

Today, I am wrestling with if it is time to open that door, like the wardrobe that leads to Narnia will I find a way home? Will I want to find a way home? How many years will pass here and there? Will you know me when I return?

Another friend of mine once asked me how I could write about art and its place in Christian theology if I wasn’t doing art. It’s a valid question. At the time, I had resigned myself to the idea that maybe I just had enough of the artistic bent to give me insight into the situation but was really meant to pursue it beyond that. I still have no desire to be an artistic success. The politics of the art world leave me apathetic, not even caring if I am commercial success, but I am learning to admit that I love the process of creating. I love the feel of the brushes in my hand and how they drag across the canvas. I am finding that my love this act is far less intellectual than I had allowed myself to believe.

It is visceral and elemental. A feeling that springs from somewhere so deep in my gut that I can not determine its source. More than a compulsion, and greater than an appetite, it is truly something that defines me as a person. It defines how I perceive this world and my place in it. It is the medium through which I define my reality and experience this life more fully.

And yet, it is the part of me that I fear the most. It is the part of me that I have yet to fully tame, and paces back and forth in my heart and mind like the lion behind steel bars. I worry when I think of releasing it, and I fear what it shall mean for me and my family. Not because I think there is anything “bad” in it, but rather it is probably the most powerful piece of who I am, lending it strength and infusing every other part of me it touches.

But it is the part of me that knows my Creator the best. It is that little bit of who I am knows the majesty and beauty of a God who decided to create a world of wonders with his voice. It when I am lost in this world of being so completely that it leaks out onto a page or canvas that I understand why he needed to speak the words that gave us life. And I am realizing that hiding from this part of me is just another way of hiding from him.

There is a piece of all of us that reflects our creator beautifully and perfectly. Where we know something about him so intimately that no one else may ever share in that revelation. It is the strongest and purest part of who we are, and it is powerful. Often intimidating the bravest of us, but what greater honor can we give him than offering it up to him?


Dirty Butter said...

I have never had an inner struggle that compares with what you have described, but you have made me feel part of yours.

Whether writing or art, it's all very creative.

Emily said...

What a beautiful compliment. Thank you.