Waiting for Glimpses of Glory

Advent Art as of Dec. 9Matt Whitney’s Painting as of Dec. 9. Here’s what he says:

I finished the under-painting of the Advent art this past Sunday, working at all three morning services, as well as with the Sunday School kids at 5 pm. Up to this point I have been using acrylic paint, which is fast drying, to sketch out the composition, define values (where there is light and dark), and create a textured surface above the cotton canvas. From here, I will start working in oil paint – covering the canvas and all the under-painted sections with a new layer of paint. Color will become more luminous and the texture crustier and scratched. I added the figure on the left, a lady waiting for the bus, modeled after a friend.  I wanted this figure to have a more realistic look, in contrast with the abstracted elements of the painting.

I want to reflect a little about this figure because the imagery is very personal to me, and George’s sermon really brings some depth to its purpose.  This lady is waiting at a bus stop. People tease me because of the Metro buses that appear in my work from time to time. It’s a well-known fact among my friends that I am a public transit fan. I ride the bus around town pretty frequently – to work, to the studio, and sometimes to church. My first experience of riding the bus was one of necessity rather than choice – my first job out of college was downtown, and my choices were either to ride the bus or pay $125 dollars a month in parking. Do you ever ride the bus? I will say that most of the time it takes twice or sometimes three times as long to get where you’re going, compared with driving.

I am telling you this because riding the bus forces me to wait.  It’s in these waiting moments that I seem to have glimpses of glory – kind deeds done amongst strangers crammed into an overcrowded bus, catching a sunset over the Ballard Locks, or the seemingly random flourishes of inspiration that strike me when my mind wanders. Spaces between immanence and transcendence are revealed. I have a heightened sense of spiritual awareness when I ride the bus – such an unlikely place for this to happen!

Back to George’s sermon…  He points out that in Advent we are reminded to wait and listen for God’s glory, that this glory is so great that on the surface we don’t even know to want it. The text from Hebrews, Chapter 2 says, “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” Riding the bus causes me to pay more careful attention. So does art in, perhaps, its most definable purpose! Art is made because someone is trying to pay more careful attention, and likewise viewing and experiencing art is also about trying to pay more careful attention.

In his sermon, George talked about those moments when we slow ourselves down and listen, and perhaps catch an occasional glimpse of glory. I would summarize the Advent art in this way. The narrative is of a figure at a bus stop. The Advent Star blazes in glory above a darkened city skyline. To the right, an abstracted angel bursts forth, trumpeting the return of Christ. These are not things that we “see” with our eyes, but they are things we know to be true, and when we slow down and “listen,” we can occasionally sense and know it. I put the words “see” and “listen” in quotations because our five senses may aid us in recognizing glory, but our greater reality is something we experience outside of these senses. It’s something larger than I can really define or fully explain. As George said, we don’t necessarily “see” Christ in his throne, seated in Glory, but we can “behold” the Glory. We listen for God, but we don’t necessarily use our ears. However, hearing a particular song can point one towards God, through the music. In the same way, art uses visual images (usually) that can point to a greater truth. You can point to the star, and the skyline, and the angel, and recognize those objects, but taken collectively and experienced, my hope and prayer is that the greater truth is made known.


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