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What is Art?

On the first day of my first college art class the professor started a discussion about the definition of art. What is art? Who gets to decide if something is considered art? What is the difference between art and craft? What makes a piece of art "good"? The class proceeded with the most pretentious debate and discussion I have ever been a part of. I realized very quickly that my views on art were not going to be appreciated by the stilted aspiring artists of my class.

While they grew more particular in their judgement of art, I kept going back to the word, joy.

I agreed with all that they were saying. Of course art can boldly make statements, express intense emotions, evoke controversial conversations, you name it. I even created pieces like that throughout my time in school. But why couldn't a painting that "just" brought joy to a person's home be considered a piece of art? Bringing beauty into the world is art. Evoking joy, evoking peace, is art. The next four years of my BFA I rebelled against the notions that art had to be a specific thing. If I poured a little bit of myself into a painting to create a little joy, that was as good of a definition of art as any in my book.

With most of my pieces, I do just that. I find imagery that I'm attracted to, things, places, or people in this world that bring me the most delight. I then revel in depicting that imagery in my own style. I pull inspiration from pop art as well as impressionism to create realistic abstract pieces.

I've been so content in my little mutiny. A college educated painter with a Fine Art degree that likes to paint pretty flowers. My own guerrilla operation. Recently, however, I was asked by my church to create a series of paintings that portrayed God's story in a visual way. They inquired about four different pieces to render the four parts of the Gospel: Creation, the Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. My brain exploded in creative intensity. The realization that I had become complacent washed over me. This was such a challenge and it defibrillated my artistic way of thinking! Through some pretty painstaking self doubt hours, I have finished the pieces. The journey rekindled my love for an aspect of art that I recently forgot about: story telling.

A dual narrative, this four-painting series portrays my personal journey and in doing so, tells God’s story. Through the four movements of God’s story, I’ve portrayed four different stages of God working in my life. My hope is that these four self-portraits will not only reveal my experiences, but reflect God’s truth and purpose.

Creation— The culmination of all of God’s creation was creating mankind. God created all of this beauty, the skies, the seas, mountains, valleys, lakes, plants and animals, and He saw that it was good. But He wasn’t done. He created man in His image to enjoy His creations and be stewards of them. Before the fall, the world was how God intended, all of the beauty, the goodness, the innocence, the peace and joy. As a metaphor of this stage in God’s story, I painted myself as a young child enjoying God’s creations. I wanted to capture the innocence, beauty and joy of creation through the innocence and joy of a child.

Acrylic on Canvas

Fall— Then there was the fall of mankind. Sin corrupted the world. The beauty and innocence of creation was tainted by evil and brokenness. Our rebellion against God results in a separation from Him. I chose to depict the fall of mankind through a time where sin was a driving force in my life. The brokenness I felt was so deep rooted that I listened to Satan’s lies first and foremost like they were God’s truth. This was a time where I lost my self-worth as being a child of God and tried to find it in any other tangible way. This led to me scrutinizing myself on the outside because I felt unloved on the inside. While my other paintings are vibrant, bold and colorful, I painted with thin blue washes to represent the despair of this period in my life and the despair of being separated from God.

Oil on unstretched canvas

Redemption— Thankfully, the Lord always had a plan to redeem that suffering and bring us back to Him. The Lord never gave up on me or let me go. Through the death and resurrection of His son, we do not have to be separated anymore. He gave his one and only son so that we can know Him and have an intimate relationship with Him. God worked in my heart and slowly lifted me out of that deep despair but it was when He made me a mom that He redeemed a lot of those personal struggles for me. I used to scrutinize my body and not take care of it out of self-loathing, thinking that if I made it perfect I would be worth loving. God worked me out of that way of thinking but when the Lord gave me my daughter, I remember realizing all over again how much that was a lie. Here I was, eager to give up my body image and sacrifice society’s idea of beauty to grow my baby and bring this life into the world. I wanted to do every possible thing I could to take care of myself so she would get the nutrition she needed. How kind of the Lord to redeem these sins in such a huge way! Furthermore, I had never fully felt the Lord’s love and grace for what it really was until I realized how much I would sacrifice for my child and remembered that the Lord sacrificed His child for me! I chose to paint myself in my pregnant state in the same pose as before but this time in vibrant warm passionate tones, with the white light of God’s love pouring out, and the blues of sorrow cracking away.

Acrylic on Canvas

Restoration— The final chapter in God’s story is His plan to restore all things, eliminating sin and evil, and reestablish His beauty again. The Lord will reconcile us to Him even more so, making us better than new. This chapter was the hardest for me to interpret because it is still yet to come. I wanted to paint the feelings of renewal, the light of forever, and the beauty that is our future with Him. This is unlike anything on Earth so I chose to render this distinction by painting the face looking up for the first time in the series. In the first three paintings, all versions of myself are looking down. But in this last piece, my face is subtle, and not the focus but looks up into the light of God’s love, grace, beauty, and peace.

Acrylic on Canvas

These paintings are not ones that I'm trying to sell for big bucks. I do not intend for them to be focal points in someone's house. I explored a different facet of art's definition, the art of telling a story.

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