Is Art Prayer?

Are we praying when we create? Who or what do we attribute our creativity? How does our spiritual life impact our creative life or vise versa? Is the work we create our way of saying thank you? Meister Echart said, “If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you. It will be enough.”

I wrote a post in April titled, “Going to Church with Mark Rothko”. I had been in Houston at the annual conference for the Global Alliance for Art and Health. One of the sites to see was the Rothko Chapel. It’s a glorious sanctuary with large works of his hanging on the walls. The chapel is quiet with benches and meditation cushions. It’s a place where you can be with Rothko’s larger than life presence, his art, and with your larger than life presence, you!

On Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, she interviewed Rainn Wilson. Many people know Rainn Wilson from his years on NBC’s The Office. This is one of those interviews when you realize how little we often know about those in the public eye. We think we know people because we read a People magazine article or a fifteen second blurb on Entertainment Tonight, but most interviews don’t give the individual the time to explore and express their inner life.

Wilson was quite articulate about his personal life and his beliefs. What caught my attention was when Wilson said, “Taking a paint brush and touching it to the canvas is no different than bowing your head in church.” It was so profound and poetic. It meshed with my own beliefs about art and spirituality and how they are one in the same.

Going to our studios is like going to a chapel. It’s a sacred space that gives us the freedom to express ourselves with purity of heart. Our moments of creativity are transcendent. I believe that any time you can express yourself completely, authentically, and honestly you are in the presence of the divine.

It may sound funny, but I’ve been having this inner dialogue about “giving up pretty” and “striving for meaning”. It’s not that pretty and meaning can’t cohabitate, but I’m starting to think it can’t always be the lead story of the day.

Some may say I’m preaching, and this may sound like a sermon, but the reality is this is my time of ultimate self-expression. This is when I can convey and share some of my deepest thoughts openly. Writing has become a practice, a place where meaning prevails, exploration is key, and peace prevails!

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Going to Church with Mark Rothko

The city of Houston has some amazing art venues. They have a plethora of museums and other cultural organizations. While I was in town I had the pleasure of hearing a quartet from the Houston Symphony, celebrating its 100th anniversary.

So it should be no surprise that Houston is the home of the Rothko Chapel. You may have had the opportunity and pleasure of seeing Mark Rothko’s work in a magazine, on television, or a museum. Houstonians and visitors have the pleasure of visiting the Rothko Chapel. It’s a self-contained building housing a select group of Rothko’s amazing oversized artwork.

Upon entering the building you’re greeted by volunteers who give you some information on the venue. The sanctuary is spacious and the only furniture in the room are eight long benches and some meditation cushions on the floor. The room is meant for contemplation. It’s a space filled with the mysteries of the artwork and the communal experience of sitting before masterpieces from the art world.

Four of the paintings are deceiving one color and the other four are two colors. I say deceiving because although the work appears to be one color/two colors it’s actually a multitude of colors. How do you know that the piece is multi-colored and multi-layered? The secret is in the light.

The only light in the room comes through a skylight. I was in the chapel about 3pm. It was a sunny day with many clouds. Sitting in the chapel, experiencing the quiet and beauty of the art you notice the subtle changes in light as the clouds pass over the chapel. It’s in those moments that you see the subtle change in color and shading. You can experience and revel in the beauty of a multi-layered piece of art that changes right before your eyes. It gives you the opportunity to live change. It provides you with the gift of beauty rolled into the lessons for focus and inner exploration.

Rothko’s work gives us the opportunity to quiet the mind and open the heart. He provides us with the gift of visceral and visual beauty. When you sit before these masterpieces you can revel in the magnificence of the art and the magnificence of your soul. Communing with the art quiets the mind and the body. It provides entry to a place deep in your heart where you can explore the multi-layers within your own psyche and relate it to Rothko’s visual representation of that multi-layered life.

Are there places in your community that provide this experience? As members of this art and healing community, please share those sacred places in the comments section below!

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