I used to be an artist. Galleries showed my work. People sometimes bought it. Some of it was impressionist landscape; moonlit winter scenes sold best. They had a Nordic charm to them, perhaps, a kind of hard-edged mysticism. I did a lot of collage, as well, a woman’s art, with religious and mythic themes. It didn’t sell much, but it was shown a lot.
And then I stopped. I didn’t need to create anymore, and art is a poor, secondhand kind of creation. I’ve read Bishop N.T. Wright on art and music, and it’s not that I disagree, but I no longer find much importance in it. Rarely do the creative arts transcend the ego of the artist.
And that would include me. Too much ego was involved, and in all honesty, I soured on the constant push to produce something that would sell. I didn’t care that Van Gogh sold almost nothing in his lifetime but is reckoned a genius. I agree, he was. But he died an ill, suicidal, bitter-souled artist. Certainly, I am no Van Gogh in mood or talent.
I think I always disliked the creative compulsion. It is too selfish. I disliked the childish dare-you attitude of the art world, always pushing to shock and intimidate. I disliked the accolades given to both the outrageous and the sentimental. I was dismayed by the messy personal lives of so many artists, by their arrogance and their introspection that made servants of their families.
Yet I appreciate a lot of art. We live with icons around us. They are constant prayer, a praying without ceasing that connects the subject, the iconographer and the viewer in the divine presence.
I like the visionary paintings by an 18th century Quaker on the theme of the Peaceable Kingdom. It is the landscape of the soul, a yearning for the New Creation, the fulfillment of the incarnation. Naif in style, the animals have almost human expressions; they are as spiritual as any of the great cathedral works of art. There is a depth to the Kingdom paintings unappreciated by a generation or so who think of them as mere Americana, a suitable decoration for a Colonial themed room. Seen with Quaker eyes they are a powerful statement, icons in their own right.
Perhaps some day I will again be able to visit a museum or art gallery with aprpeciation of the artists’ endeavours, but now I feel too much pity and sorrow for the paltriness of human vision without divine inspiration.