Redemptive Art

I wandered for many years, searching for the space where art, social justice, and faith interweave. For decades, I felt that art and social justice were separate compartments of my life; and I could not find overlap. I painted here and there, but focused the bulk of my energy on the urgent social justice issue of orphans.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love art, when I was not actively creating. Some of the earliest memories of my life are of kneeling on the kitchen floor to color with my dad. I never thought twice about majoring in fine arts when I went to college. I was incredibly blessed to receive the unreserved support and encouragement of both my parents. But as I grew to understand the urgency of global human need, art was easy to set aside. Particularly after adopting our two children from a developing world orphanage, I knew that time would not wait for these precious, desperate children trapped in warehouse care.

Art faded into a quiet, respectful, non-insistent whisper. For years, I tried to ignore it as I ran a frantic race to try to make a difference in a suffering world. But it would not go away. After I lost my dad several years ago, my soul stumbled, unable to sustain the pace. When I lost my last shred of strength, I sat down on the path and finally acknowledged that painting, for me, is an essential fountain of life and renewal. I finally surrendered to the awareness that it must find its place alongside my passion for social justice in this journey of following Jesus.

Not long ago I joined in on a conversation at a party. A proud aunt showed off photos of artwork created by her two young nieces. The aunt expressed her admiration, but went on to say that it was because of their father’s artistic leanings that they were orphaned. When the girls’ mother died, the father could not earn enough income from his art to support his family; and so the girls came to live with their aunt. Particularly in light of the fact that the conversation was about an issue that brings me to tears in seconds – orphans – the old taunting voices rushed in fast and furious. Why would I choose to hold such a foolish tool in my hand?

And yet, soon after, I attended a satellite session of the Global Leadership Summit. The screening of a creative dance brought tears to my eyes, inspiration to my soul. The talks were powerful, certainly; but the images from the dance – ah, they will stick in my spirit for years to come. They guide me even today on a wordless path of life and hope.

However foolish it may be, I have come to believe that art is the terrifying and exhilarating tool which God, in His great goodness and grace, has entrusted to me to speak about His love to the world. I know as never before that the Kingdom of God is what life is about, and I must use the tool He placed in my hands.

Last Friday night, I partnered with other “redemptive artists,” creatives compelled to communicate God’s love through the arts, (Maria Pompea, Jean Peirre Debernay, Terrilynn Zaharias, Michelle Thomsen, and Evelyn Wyss) to host a gallery for the Colorado Springs First Friday series. Each first Friday of the month, various galleries in town host openings. The images above are of the six pieces I contributed. Below are images of the gallery. (You can click any of the photos to view larger.)

By exhibiting our work together, my prayer is that we will speak louder and more insistently; and perhaps by the grace of God, convince someone of His great love.

 

16 thoughts on “Redemptive Art

  1. I absolutely LOVE this concept. I’m sure seeing you use the beautiful gift He has given you is precious in His eyes! I’ve been touched away and across some distance. ❤

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  2. Amazing…such a beautiful post.
    I love how art impacts social injustice…connects rather than divides…and takes us to a higher place…I never really thought too much about that until I read your post. 🙂

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    • I actually experienced the connection of social justice and art through your blog just today! You posted about the song “Be Still” – I listened to it from your link and it became a powerful prayer of longing for justice and healing in the life of someone I love dearly. Amazing that God gave me that gift just today – through you! Thank you.

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  3. Hey Colleen, check out the website boughtbeautifully.org. I think they might be a great venue for you to list your prints, jewelry, etc. They only have products on there that are from sellers who are expressly Christian, are fair to developing country manufacturers. I just heard a presentation from the website owners today, it just opened last week. Good stuff. I thought of you and pamba toto immediately. KJ

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  4. Hi Colleen, My father died in 1983, when I was 29. I was in the first year of my doctoral program in special education at Northern Illinois University. As I grieved, my poetry flowed. I’d write a poem, then could concentrate. I graduated in 1987 and then worked in teacher training for 6 years, then my mother’s care. So like you and many others, we find ways to integrate our gifts over time. Grow towards some healing and wholeness. Now I am in my 60s and in another new learning curve! I love your art. Blessings to you and your family, Ellen

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  5. A beautiful post. When I see your paintings I am always moved, and from this vantage point I can’t imagine someone with your talent and heart doing anything else. Art says something that words alone cannot, something that Love needs to say…

    Michael

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  6. My dear friend..you should never quit painting again..your work is incredibly beautiful…I also started painting again after my father died. My father was an abusive man who abandonned his family…I had a lot of issues dealing with that..I spent five days in hospice with my father and watched him die. I had my father for five days of my life. His death freed me. I did 15 paintings in one year and had a solo show to deal with my grief. My mother abandoned our family as well. I was raised by my grandmother. Some of my brother and two sisters grew up in orphanages and all 3 died of drug overdose. I was an emotional orphan. It is because of my Bengali husband and my father in law that I lived well.i raised my three children that they felt they were wanted and loved. Yet like you, I always had a deep belief in God and that saved me, although I converted to Islam

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    • I am so sorry for everything you have been through! Oh my goodness. I thank God that you seem to have found joy and peace and even been able to instill great love in your own children. May you know Him increasingly and may He reveal Himself to you in ever greater measure!

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