Art and Ecumenicity
By Kimberlee A. Cloutier-Blazzard
Yesterday I participated in “Faith in Art”: An Ecumenical Art Retreat. The retreat was envisioned with the express purpose of bringing together people of diverse faith backgrounds to explore how art channels spirituality in all its forms.
We had four speakers with various professions and backgrounds speak on a range of topics: a female icon-painting Lutheran minister, a “spiritually open” female gallery curator/art historian and two male artists-one a Muslim from Cairo and the other an agnostic college professor. They spoke on subjects varying from traditional icon making to contemporary secular spiritualism to personal visions of God as found in beauty and inner truth to the importance of comedy in spirituality as a means of transcending human hubris and dogmatism from the ancient Greeks forward.
While the topics ranged from East to West and back East and West again, from the sacred image to the outwardly secular installation, from the sacred written word to the satyr play, all the interstitial spaces between seemed to fill with the same aching for knowledge of the inner-self and its foundation in something larger and selfless.
Each speaker vocalized how art formed a means to connect with the transcendent, either as prayer, as a means of emptying the ego, a way to find wonder and mystery in the seemingly well-mapped world or to question the tragic as the sole purveyor of divinity.
The group that gathered was not large-fewer than twenty-but the ambience was intimate, the talks provocative and the energy overwhelmingly positive and radiant. There were folks of all ages, walks of life, and levels of artistic proficiency.
After a lunch break, our afternoon was consumed by art making, trying desperately to channel some of the positive focus and lessons learned from intellectual exercises into a physical form-a record for others to see and imbibe.
The works will hang collectively at the nearby Montserrat Gallery in short stead. Those visitors who walk the hall and see them hanging side by side will see just how diverse the participants were, and just how singular the beautiful light that shone through our facture.
I think we all left thinking to ourselves that it’s amazing what the human mind and spirit can accomplish in an atmosphere of open exploration, fellowship and tolerance.
Every global movement starts somewhere, and I hope the spark of ecumenical spirituality kindled today spreads outward in an ever-widening circle of embrace. The aching world is ready and waiting.
This item originally appeared in the blog Percyflage.
Kimberlee A. Cloutier-Blazzard, Ph.D., is a senior contributing writer & contributing editor of Bread and Circus Magazine and an Independent Scholar of Art History, Specializing in Northern Renaissance and Baroque. Click here to send her email.