Monday, February 23, 2009

On being a Christian artist ...

Natural dyes, shibori, stitch, repurposed vintage Asian silk, mother of pearl buttons.

I confess that while I am an artist and have a couple of shows now safely tucked under my belt, I am still new at this game. Not at making because I come from a heritage of makers ... my grandparents were makers, and I spent my childhood with them. Even as an adult, I was always mucking around with stuff.
But the art world. Exhibitions. And the kind of people that are artists and that hang around living vicariously through the art world. The prevailing fashions and entrenched attitudes that drench the art scene. The challenge for me is expressing myself in a public forum that has a whole protocol about what is and isn't acceptable without compromising who I am and what I believe. You know, remaining true to what my heart tells me is right. Because the two things don't always add up.
At an opening (not mine) this past weekend for a Maori artist, a call was made from the Director of the art gallery for someone to come forward and open the exhibition with a blessing. Then to my complete amazement he clearly stated "But NOT A CHRISTIAN prayer because Maori prayer doesn't end in Amen." And admirably a Maori woman stepped forward and did an incredible karanga. It was a moving opening. But I digress ...
As a Christian Maori artist, I was taken aback to say the least. Firstly because Amen simply means "And so be it" (and why is that objectionable?). And secondly, that Jesus is obviously not welcome in this place. And I happen to love Jesus, the life he lived and what he stands for.
It's become obvious that being a Christian isn't trendy in our day and age. Being anything else is completely acceptable - a greenie, an alternative, a holistic healer, a muslim, budhist or aetheist is all ok. But church, Jesus, prayer and stuff like it isn't.
And admittedly mainstream church hasn't always been the safest place for people who are different. Church itself has often created resistance and boundaries that don't often reflect the heart of God but rather man's fears and small-mindedness. And Church is made up of people who are not perfect. Church needs to remember this and so does everyone else. But the purpose of church is two-fold (as I understand it to be).
Jesus was asked, what is the most important thing of all. He answered:
"Love God and Love Each Other."
Unfortunately church has come to mean so many other things but for me that is it's sole purpose. That is our goal. Not as Christians but for ALL people. To love our Creator and to love one another. So why do we object? Why don't we embrace loving God and loving one another.
Lots of reasons. People have been hurt by the church. People have made up ungodly rules that created barriers and obstructions that prevent people from getting to God. Suddenly knowing God became conditional. Stop smoking, girls wear dresses, no fun on Sundays, no dating, no dancing, no rock music, and the funniest one, no sin! Well, I don't know about you but I haven't figured out how to NOT sin. Not that I am proud of it. But I make mistakes, I hurt people, I say the wrong thing, I have awful attitudes and thoughts. Wow, I am not perfect.
But I serve and love a God that has perfect love for me. Not based on what I can do, but based on His capacity to love, forgive, understand and know me because He wants to and in spite of my flaws. Now how many people could I say can do that?
And although life lived consciously for Christ is no walk in the park, it is definitely the best decision I ever made. I am a better person for it. Ask those who know me. I am a changed and changing woman. And really living my life to the fullest didn't stop when I became a Christian (or believer or whatever you want to call it!). In fact that is when I truly felt alive. When I reconnected to God.
So although that man didn't want a Christian prayer, what he was saying in essence was that he didn't want to acknowledge the God of all men, women, nations and peoples. Because God is not the property of Christians, He belongs to us all and we to Him.
And although my work isn't covered in crucifix's and the red blood of Christ (ew!), in it's essence it is influenced by Christian values. The importance of family and loving the world, loving others, community, the beauty of God's creation - nature, and His unconditional love and acceptance towards his ultimate creation - us. My work is sometimes intended to challenge those things which work against God's purposes - like our own foolishness, our wastefulness, ignorance, racism, discrimination, abuse, addictions, etc.
I cannot separate myself into parts. Christian on Sunday, Artist on Thursday, Woman at home, Maori on the marae, activist in political situations - I am always all those things. Which is why the situation that happened on the weekend irked me. Because someone was separating what is inseparable. God and man. They are meant to be joined. Once we isolate and separate ourselves from our creator, then we are truly lost! Can I hear an amen?


imbi star said...

hallelejah.....amen amen
holy mary
i hear ya!
you rock woman

Helen said...

live and let be I say!
love your shibori and stitch pieces above.

Ngaio said...

Each to their own I say, just don`t force it down my neck !! There is far to much bigotry in this world.
Love your work - keep smiling and enjoying those 3 gorgeous boys and their cool Dad, you are doing well. I think we over-analise everything these days, the simpler the better for me ..

Ahipara Girl said...

Ngaio, I do not wish to force anything down anyone's throat. Merely expressing my own opinion and beliefs within my own blog, as I am entitled too. I too hate bigotry, however no doubt, like all have been guilty of my own discrimination and bias and smallmindedness. I make mistakes and my own fallibility humbles me. My boys are awesome, I am very grateful. Thank you for taking time to visit.

Jeana Marie said...


so much truth in this post - so encouraging too :)


Jacqui (Jax to my friends) said...

Amen! Thank you for being you.
Love your work