I had a great day today full of talks about art and redemption and God. I met an amazing woman who takes pieces of discarded, worn pottery and glass from the shoreline by her new house in Crail, Scotland. She has called it “Redemptive Art” in that it redeems what was lost, as that’s how she feels about herself, and how God redeemed her.
She reminded me of how art has such of an effect on how people view God and humanity. One of my favourite pieces being Caravaggio’s “Saint Matthew and the Angel”; not the final composition but the discarded view of a poor man Matthew, slightly clumsy, his hand being led by an angel beside him. As Betty Baroque states, it was not seen as appropriate to go above the altar, but I adore the humanity of it, and the truth of the divine grace of the angels attention.
It helps me see not just the wise saintly figure of the stories or myths, but the real people who were nothing special in themselves except that they chose to follow when the world told them to stay home. This Matthew is writing not out of pride, attention-seeking, or self-righteousness; Matthew is writing in obedience, to teach others of the man, of the God, he knew in Jesus.
This piece to me is redemptive art because God took something discarded and displayed more of his majesty and our humbleness than He could have through the final composition made for Contarelli Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesi. This painting is shown in black and white because it was destroyed in the WWII, even so it has been redeemed to show the great work of a faithful artist wanting to show a truthful representation of the gospel author. This is redemptive art because it shows a man redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice and his faith in that man/God he walked with for so long. He is redeemed because God chose this frail, clumsy man, straining and surprised at his task, to use and work in to spread the gospel world-wide.
This piece is of obedience and humanity, beauty in struggle, divinity at work in a world of men, and I find this refreshing in a world so often claimed by those who practice art for art’s sake, who right to be heard, compose to complain. The difference is that when God is working through you, you are both not yourself, and more yourself than you ever were before. The difference is that as you are redeemed, everything you give back to God is redeemed also and made more glorious. I love this piece of Caravaggio’s work because it reminds me to do my own work with honesty, and grace and most importantly God (or at least an angel) guiding my hand.Thank you must go to both Debra who I met at cafe church this morning, and Gillian Gamble who inspired a piece about my favourite painting so far.