“The Religion of Art
Just because you love art and know a lot about it doesn’t mean you are a spiritual person and have your own religiousness. Still, art can lead you so deep into your world and yourself that you get in touch with the sacred and the mysterious. It all depends on how you approach art.
I play my piano, as I said earlier, without professional skill but passably, and do it with the intention of entering sacred spaces. It works. The piano is my incense, my lighted candle, and my empty space. It takes me into deep meditation, where I find the sacred just as I might uncover it in a monastery choir stall. The piano has none of the trappings of formal religion, and yet it is effective in sustaining my spiritual life.
Art shows us the invisible in the visible, the sacred in the profane, even when the sacred isn’t expressed in explicit religious imagery. A still-life painting or a portrait can reveal the hidden, and sometimes, when it shows how things glow with their essence, you can even glimpse the divine.
The history of art has many examples but perhaps none better than the paintings of simple, everyday things, especially ordinary vases and bottles, by Giorgio Morandi. One critic describes his work as “a meditation on time, art, isolation, self-preservation and the ordinary mystery of all of that.” “The ordinary mystery of all that” could be the subtitle of this book.
Van Gogh’s famous paintings of shoes teach us to see past the surface of ordinary things and behold the poetry in something so commonplace, pointing to our foundations in every sense of the word.
The photography historian Tony Bannon, speaking of the monk Thomas Merton as a photographer, says that a photograph of something as simple as a vine on a window can be a call to awareness.
It “expands the horizon of the witness.”
There is a phrase you can adopt now for your spiritual vocabulary: “Expand the horizon of your witness.”
A Religion of One’s Own