Thursday, February 27, 2014

sacred gifts

although a museum has always tickled my fancy, it was while living in france that i truly grew to appreciate being up close and personal with works of art. seeing the texture of every delicate brush stroke, the way each color fades and blends into the next, standing in front of an original painting that is hundreds of years old–it really gives you a chance to think, even ponder, what the artist was really trying to capture, what they were imagining as they put their brush to canvas. 

there is nothing like seeing a painting that took up half a page in your art history text book take up an entire wall in the louvre. it's hard to explain the beauty of seeing the delicate hand of adam reaching toward the finger of God, while you stand staring at the ceiling of the chapel where Michaelangelo once stood, on scaffolding, and painted. 

a painting cannot be appreciated in seconds, or even minutes. the real thing takes time, and the more time you are willing to give, the more you will learn, the more you will receive. when you lose yourself in a static work of art, you find detail, emotion, even movement, and that is truly magical. being able to let myself go while pondering art has often been a spiritual experience, and that was definitely the case as i took in the beauty of the Sacred Gifts exhibit. 

the exhibit was entitled as such because Christ, our Savior, and his redeeming grace are sacred gifts to us from our Heavenly Father; however, the privilege of spending just a few hours in the museum was truly a sacred gift to me. 

several of the paintings in the exhibit captured Christ and his emotions and feelings in ways i had never seen depicted before. they opened my eyes to the dynamic personality i believe Jesus has. 

accompanying the paintings were words and videos from the pastors and priests of the churches in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and New York, sharing their love for Christ and these beautiful altar pieces and paintings. they each had a personal connection to a painting, and their messages filled my heart with joy. there are so many believers in this world. whether worshipping God means attending church for three hours on Sunday or appreciating the beauty of his creations while hiking through the mountains. i am grateful that there are so many that believe in the goodness of God, that feel his love.

no matter what your beliefs or your religion, i think there is a spiritual experience to be had in viewing any great work of art. if you live in utah, you need to visit the Sacred Gifts exhibit at the BYU Museum of Art. it opened my eyes and filled my heart, and i hope it does the same for you. 

though they do no justice, i would like to share three of my favorite paintings with you. these three paintings were ones that captured different, distinct traits of the Savior, and i loved each of them for different reasons.

Heinrich Hofmann, Portrait of Christ

Hofmann painted this portrait to display in his own home, never planning to share it with the public. In 1905, he said of the painting, "I wanted to hang it over my bed and when I went to rest in the evening, it should look at me, earnestly scrutinizing, and ask: 'Have you lived this day in my spirit according to my commandments?'" the light color of the Savior's robes and the calmness expressed in his face depict a caring, meek man. He does not scrutinize us in a condescending way, but as an honest, earnest friend. i love seeing how an artist painted Christ not for the public eye, but as he truly imagined him. 

Understanding and realness
Carl Bloch, The Mocking of Christ
  "And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put itupon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!" Matthew 27:29

the texture of this painting by Carl Bloch makes it so unique. the blood dripping from the crown of thorns is raised, giving the painting an almost haunting, realistic feel. Christ gazes straight into the eyes of the viewer with an expression of the understanding of his fate. He knew what he was doing, and though it went against his natural, human will, he was willing to make that sacrifice for us. He is a real person, has real feelings, and understood what he was charged to do: i love how Bloch captures that in this painting. 

Empathy and depth of feeling
Frans Schwartz, Agony in the Garden
“And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43)

i've never seen a painting of Christ where he looked so sorrowful, so low, but i know this is how he must have felt in the Garden of Gethsemane. this painting captures, for me, the empathy that Christ has because of his Atonement. He can feel every sorrow, trial, and sickness with us. just as the angel comforts Him with the power of touch, Christ can comfort us in our times of agony and pain. the deep blues and the intense shading point to the depth of sorrow the Savior feels, which is contrasted by the glittering lightness of the comforting angel, hinting at the hope we can have for a brighter day ahead. this painting moved me. 

i hope that if you are near, you will go and see these paintings, and that they will move you too. if you are not close by, find an exhibit near you that changes you, and share it. 

don't forget to take your time. there is more to art than meets the eye.


many thanks to my sweet, sweet mother for encouraging us to go to this exhibit and for flying out here and going with us. she is a beautiful example to me, and i loved experiencing the beauty of the exhibit with her. 

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