Spirituality & Art: an Exercise in Reflection

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Spirituality & Art: an Exercise in Reflection

By Kathleen Hutton, Director of Education | @LearnReynolda
 
What emerges is the idea that artistic creativity itself has spiritual value, and for the observer to enter into that creativity to some degree is to achieve a kind of spiritual insight.
-Joshua C. Taylor, The Religious Impulse in American Art in Papers in American Art. Maple Shade, NJ: The Edinburgh Press, 1976.
 

To demonstrate that art can transcend the lines between cultures, religions, and languages, below is an exercise in spiritual reflection. We invite you to share this activity with your friends, family, and communities of worship to view art as a vehicle for deeper understanding and a tool for teaching.


What You'll Need:

  • pencil
  • sketch paper/pad
  • a work of art (either in person or online)
  • open mind
What You'll Do:
 
Begin by positioning yourself in front of a work of art so that you have a full, unobstructed view of the entire object. If at the Museum, you may request a gallery stool from the protection officer.
 
Get still and remain quiet.  
 
Take a deep breath and focus your thoughts.
 
Look carefully and deliberately at the art. Scan the entire surface. Keep looking, and pay attention to what you notice. Aim for at least three minutes.
 
Sketch the work.
 
Try as much as possible to have your eye and hand in synch; as you follow the outline of a form with your eyes, trace that same outline with your hand. This is called contour drawing. In an sense, you are outlining, but feel free to have your eyes travel as your hand traces internal lines.
 
Meditate.  Consider the following:
  • What direction does my eye take?
  • Is there a story to understand?
  • Does anything imply a thought or action to avoid?
  • Is there a lesson to learn?
  • Is there new knowledge here for me?
Write down whatever comes to mind as a response to any of the above.  Review. 
 
Look once more at the art. 
 
Then, write about it continuously until you come to a stopping point—aim for about three minutes.
 
Now you're ready to share what you discovered with someone else. 
 
The Museum would love to hear about your experience with this exercise. Share your discoveries and read about others' in the comments below.

Can't make it to the Museum during the week or the weekend? Attend Reynolda Thursdays on May 1 and printed handouts of this exercise will be available with supplies. The Museum will be open until 8 p.m. with music, live performances, refreshments, and discounted admission.


Image Credit: Fredric Church, The Andes of Ecuador, (1855). Original Purchase fund from Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Area Foundation, and Anne Cannon Forsyth.


Comments

I viewed and sketched the Fredric Church, Andes of Ecuador, (1855) via the digital wing. I noticed there were levels created from the different saturations of light on the Andes. The light distinguished levels of the ice-capped mountains in the distance, the foothills, and the valley region. Glancing over the scenic mountains, it is so easy to assume that there is no life. However, with a water source that connects the Andes to the valley, there is life present.Lessons Learned:With the right perspective, one can see the beauty in rugged terrain. It is important to identify the source of life, or personal fulfillment, and adapt to that source.

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