The Spiritual in Art

One of my heroes, Vassily Kandinsky, has written on this topic, but I want to be honest: I have not read his work. I have tried. But while I am awed by Kandinsky’s paintings, his prose is far less captivating. Suffice to say that coming to understand something about what Kandinsky had to say about art and spirituality sits high upon my to-do list, frowning at me a bit because of my laziness regarding the undertaking. Tonight I had a thought about spirituality and art. I may, at some time, describe why and how I came to paint the images that accompany these words. In short, these are reproductions of “Our Lady of China” created by an unknown twentieth-century artist. This is the third time I have re-imagined the piece and each time I have explored different media. (Only two of those are pictured: the image on the right is an iPad drawing and the other two images are from a painting in progress). The insight I gained tonight had nothing to do with the actual subject matter. Rather it is a matter of process, and perhaps empowerment. I have been ill at ease these past few days, and one of my symptoms has been a general dissatisfaction with my art-making. I have been restless, uncertain, doubtful. I have tried all my usual tricks, meditation among others,  and they brought me some measure of comfort.  Today, “Our Lady of China,” (the acrylic on paper version) had vexed me all day. In particular, I was quite unhappy with the work I was doing in comparison with my iPad model. I finally gave up. But tonight, rather late, I returned again to “Our Lady of China.” You can see that I did not end with a finished product: there is cutting and pasting and tape and a big mess. But the problem was solved “to my satisfaction”: in other words, I felt a sense of relief, of closure.  To be clear, I did not feel a sense of completion. But I did feel as if I could rest. The unease dissipated, and I felt this renewed sense of inhabiting the identity “artist.” As if an ill-fitting suit suddenly became comfortable once again. I am not sure what else to say about this except that it felt like a spiritual moment, that is to say, an experience that made more sense in my mind and heart and body than it did in my brain. Making sense isn’t even the right way to say it. It was an experience. Just that. And “just that” felt like a moment of spirit.

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