A Juror's thoughts on selecting work for the next CIVA traveling exhibition
by Richard Cummings
The title of this post comes from the CIVA
(Christians in the Visual Arts) exhibition
for which I have been given responsibility as juror. Since receiving this opportunity I have meditated and prayed over its title continually. I have prayed for the artists who would submit their work, and I have prayed that, amongst the artwork submitted, there would be a powerful connection to the exhibition’s ethos. Through this process I have regularly asked myself, What is the significance of the union of these three words: touch, anoint, heal?
As a visual artist and Christ-follower, the intrinsic act of forming and shaping is of supreme importance to me. Re-forming or re-creating the stuff of creation is an integral part of what it means for us to be formed in God’s image.
God created the universe from nothing, ex nihilo, but it is important to realize that he formed his greatest creation, humans, ex creatas... out of the dust. God was the first sculptor, the first shaper of the raw materials of his created world. In the beginning, he was the first to get his hands on the stuff of his creation, and it surely hasn’t been the last time.
Likewise, we who call ourselves artists deal with physical stuff. We fling it, shape it, manipulate it, trash it, retrieve it, layer it, adhere it, remove it and even yell at it. Physical stuff, the stuff that can be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, thought of and, yes, touched, is not an accident, but a blessed existence. God created a physical creation and called it good, and we experience the physical world through our physical selves. Even the invisible worlds of spirit and thought are communicated by means of our physical experience. It is impossible to disassociate humanity from the physical creation.
Touch is the most intimate of senses. With touch a relationship is formed; a connection is made. Touch can happen accidentally, but it is most powerful when it is intentional. Touch communicates. It makes the unspoken concrete. Touch is the bridge between the fleeting thought and the tangible object.
Whether it be T.S. Eliot setting down and reworking phrases on paper or whether it be Bruce Herman laying down paint and then sanding back through the layers to reveal a richness of history, the intangible musings of the individual become the shared experiences of the many; all because something was touched. To touch is to connect.
Christian tradition inherited the ritual act of anointing from the Jews. From the placing of lamb’s blood over their doorposts in Egypt to the pouring of oil over Israel’s kings, the ritual of anointing has been used to visually and symbolically set something or someone apart. Anointing with oil is still practiced in many Christian rituals, i.e. baptisms, ordinations and healing services. In a manner of speaking the act of anointing finds its secular counterpart in significant sporting events. Can anyone name a victorious Super Bowl coach who has not been “anointed” by Gatorade within recent history? Even in this contemporary, secular example, the setting apart of the individual and the physicality of the act cannot be ignored. We anoint someone in order to ritually set that individual apart. This anointing becomes an act of solemn covenant and communal proclamation, an agreement and statement by a community on behalf of the anointed. To anoint is to set apart.
Healing is humiliating. In order to be healed, we must first recognize that something is broken; there is something that we ourselves cannot fix. We are used to brokenness. After all, we live in a fallen and broken world. The creation still reveals the glory of God, but it is ravaged by the consequences of our rebellion.
Jesus actively laid his hands on many who in faith sought his blessing and healing, and the mere touch of his hem, when grasped ahold of in faith, was enough to heal the woman in the crowd stricken with bleeding. To heal is to restore to wholeness.
As I examine the three hundred plus images submitted for the exhibition, I can’t help but look for the union, the indwelling; the wholeness of the three words in the work. I find myself pondering a call to be artist healers, each of us anointed to bring wholeness, justice, and shalom to our neighbors.
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