Thursday, July 14, 2005

Tents and Hues

First of all, please forgive me for the cheesy title...I couldn't resist. If you are unaware (as I was before art classes), a "hue" is a color with white added to it. There can be many hues of green, for instance, according to how much white is added. A "tint" is the opposite, a color with black added. But in this instance I am talking about a tent, like for camping.

Two days ago in my painting/theology class, we were discussing a modern art work by a woman named Tracey Emin. The piece is an actual camping tent with a light inside. On the walls of the tent you see listed, in big embroidered letters, names of people. There are other messages in small squares also inside the tent, and a mattress on the floor. The title of the work is "Everyone I Have Ever Slept With." The names include all the bed-sharers in the artist's life, from sexual partners and family members, to her own aborted child. You can check out some pictures at

So, we talked a bit about this, and what it was saying about culture, and people. There is color in the tent, but there is a haunting void. There is a story being told, and you almost feel trapped in it. The story is almost imploding on itself (maybe even on the artist?). I began processing what it would look like for Christians to respond to a piece like this.

Over the past year, the Lord has been using the Biblical image of a tent in my life, and in the life of the Asbury community. This tent is a tabernacle. In this tent is a barren woman who is being asked prophetically to expand her borders. To open her doors (Isaiah 54) strengthen her stakes for the Lord's blessing. In praying some of this scripture for the Asbury community, it was as if God was saying, "Make room! Get ready! Everyone gather under. I am doing a new thing among you." This tent was a community tent, full of redemptive relationship. Healing. Open. A place where the Lord dwells. A bridal tent. Now, as all of this was running through my mind, I was exploding to share with the group. My mind was twisting up against itself as I wondered what such a tent would look like.

I have realized now, a couple of days later, that I am called to create that tent. A redemptive tent. A Story Tent. In it is a story and a community much bigger than the one Emin depicted in her piece. Artistically, Emin's tent speaks volumes. It is creative and clear. The emotions are emptiness and woundedness.

As Christians, even in the arts, we are called to bind up wounds, to pour out all we have that His Love might fill others. So, to get back to the hues...I want to make a tent with white added. The purity and light and grace of a greater Story. A redemptive covering holding inside all the names of those who rest under it.


JohnDeere said...

really inspiring Shannon-- I can see it as I read your words. Made me remember one of my favorite country songs ;-) In the words of Martina "Love's the only house big enough for all the pain in the World."

keep it coming.

Rosielita said...

Shannon: I enjoy your analogy. I would challenge you a little in the idea of creating to "show" God. Sometimes I think about the Tabernacle, God's design for his own temple-- of the purple pomegranates, of the ark-- of the elaborate tapestry. It is oddly purely aesthetic in adornment. It shows beauty, but it refrains from speaking, of giving the viewer strong linear symbols and images. We as Christians are notorious for speaking when we should use image. And when using images we employ ones that were once used as Church propaganda in the Medieval and Byzantine churches. I think one of the reason's Emin's piece fails to communicate with the viewer (hence the feelings of being overwhelmed) is the excessive use of language. I think most art that jumps the visual gate and uses language fails on some level. In your movement towards creating art that is redemptive in nature, remember art is story– much as the bible is story. The bible employs story that moves us through our sin nature towards redemption, and art that fails to acknowledge the fallen status of man and moves straight into redemption, without addressing the journey, can leave a viewer feeling disjunct. Emin’s piece leaves you desiring redemption, and that is understandable, it is one side of the coin- it too can be seen as disjunct. I would encourage you to create for God, to create in his image, to create for him because you love him, and not with the intent to “show” him. Showing others Christ in image most often ends up itself being a form of propaganda. Invite the viewer into your journey with Christ. Invite them to see your fallen nature and his redemptive act in you as you express those reelections towards God. I have found that this “shows” Christ far better than the employment of excessive symbolic imagery any day of the week.

Shannon said...

Similarities are fun, as is those you and I share. A love for the Lord, artistic gifts, the name Shannon and Sarah's Tent.

It would be lovely to see some of your artwork posted on your blog - or a link to your work. (Perhaps I've not found it yet.) Either way - blessings and great love ...
Shannon Parish