Friday, September 18, 2020
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Art and Spirituality

Dan Donovan, professor emeritus of St. Michael’s College, wrote recently in the Catholic Register that all serious art is spiritual. That statement describes my experience as an artist. I have used art as the language of my prayer for some years, other people’s art certainly, but predominately my own.

Recently, I attended an Art Workshop given by artist Douglas Walton from Louisiana. In this particular workshop, we were instructed to use the same object for painting throughout the week working from realism to semi-realism to semi-abstract to abstract and, finally, to non-objective.

Before the workshop I had been praying with a theme that animates the spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph: the relationship of the divine Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit with the human trinity of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I wanted to work with this theme throughout the art workshop using symbol and colour to communicate what I had experienced in prayer.

As you can see from the painting, I chose to represent this theme with a small triangle within a large one and to set these symbols in a mandala shape of circles. As I used these symbols over and over again from one painting to the next during this art workshop, the fathomless depth contained in the reality of the interrelationship between the Divine and human trinity deepened within me.

Then I saw how Eucharist is the foundation of the relationship between persons bringing about communion. No matter how my subsequent paintings became fragmented or even blurred with only the colour telling the story, the underpainting of Trinity and Eucharist could not be lost but only invited me to contemplate the mystery more deeply.

But what does this have to do with spirituality, you might ask. I like the way Michael Mcguinnes S.J. describes it. He says that spirituality means listening to the deeper levels of our experience with a sense that there is something completely trustworthy and good to be found there. In this listening, many recognize the life-giving presence of God in us, challenging and surprising us with new understanding and insight. That description of spirituality is a good fit for me.

By Virginia Varley CSJ


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