I recently came across this beautiful letter written by Makoto Fujimura to young artists. It is a message that a young artist should hear. It is also a message any artist should hear. Read it. Re-read it. I have.
Portions of it have been rolling around in my own head for years. But, there are pieces that are a revelation to me. It has taken me decades to bring 'art' to a point in my life where it can be synonymous with prayer/meditation. Not always, but sometimes. and then I desire to incorporate gold and silver and even more. If my prayers (read: scrawled nonsensical journalings and sketchings) are a sweet smelling sacrifice (and I pray they are), this desire for pure beauty to be part of them seems right.
Here is one of those revelations that came through this letter, though. I have found my art supplies, since college days, from the drug store, the back sale corners of craft stores, things people are throwing away. And this is OK. I have lived "reduce, reuse, recycle" since way before it was trendy. Old stuff and 'trash' paper, will continue to make it into what I do. But...here is the clincher. This is my offering to God. My journals have been taking me there. And, if so, can I invest in metaphorical expensive oil, like Mary? I have set art aside for most of my life to invest time in family, church, etc. I have spent little money on it, again, to invest other ways.
In this I may have been more like Martha than her sister Mary, one of the other Mary's the Bible speaks of.
This is an Iphone capture from one of my journals.
Here is a small excerpt from Makoto's letter.
"Like Mary’s expensive oil, our expression flows out as a response to grace in our lives. Even if you are not cognizant of a grace reality, you can still create in the possibility of future grace. That takes faith to do, but if you can do that, you will be joining so many artists of the past who wrestled deeply with faith, doubt, poverty, rejection, longing and yet chose to create. Know that the author of creativity longs for you to barge in, break open the gift you have been saving; he will not only receive you, he can bring you purpose behind the battle, and rebuke those who reject you. Mary’s oil was the only thing Jesus wore to the cross. He was stripped of everything else, but art can sometimes endure even torture. A friend of mine said that in the aroma of Christ, Mary’s oil mixed with Christ’s blood and sweat, there are da Vincis and Bachs floating about. He will bring your art, music and dance to the darkness of death, and into the resurrection of the third day.
So endeavor to create generatively. Don’t be a critic when you create. You can look at your work later and discern what is good. Your growth as an artist is not in being able to impress others, or even God."
If I had come across this discussion years ago would it have changed what I did with my time and money? I don't know.
Will it change me now?
And about Makoto Fujimura's art? He uses gold and ground precious gems in his painting.