Thursday, September 30, 2010

God's ArtPrize

Downtown Grand Rapids is abuzz for the second straight year, as streets and buildings are riddled with artwork. Even as someone who doesn’t consider himself an “art” person, ArtPrize has been a very enjoyable experience for me. Last fall, I got caught up with the big stuff. Remember “Nessy” in the river? Or, the huge table and chairs on top of the blue bridge? That’s the stuff I liked. Pretty telling of my shallow art appreciation, isn’t it? However, this year other types of art are catching my eye. I’m drawn to the stuff made out of simple, ordinary, throw-away things. My favorites so far…

Cavalry, American Officers, 1921. Local Artist Chris LaPorte drew an entire Cavalry company. His drawing covers a 30 foot space in the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Over 60 hand drawn soldiers are represented in life-size proportion. What amazed me (and my art major daughter) is that he drew this 300 square foot piece with #2 pencils—the same pencils kids get in grade school. I love how Chris describes his piece.

Many marks make up the drawing. Many men make up the regiment. Many lines make up the face. Many wrinkles make up the shirt. Many characters make up the story. Many experiences make up the event. Many minutes make up the hour, day, year.

A Matter of Time. Chris Baliker has a stunning 15 foot wood sculpture that has at least 20 animals carved throughout. The carvings are woven together with a web of wooden pieces that appear to me to be either tree roots or drift wood. When we walked by the piece, there was a huge crowd surrounding it. Many people not only stopped, they sat down in the grass and took their time enjoying each animal scattered through the piece.

Other simple displays have caught my eye this year as well. Horses made out of throw-away kitchen utensils. A person’s face formed by wine corks. A huge penny made from 80,000 pennies that have been discolored from time and wear. An 11 foot dragon with a 16 foot tail made from the metals of old water tanks.

Pencils, kitchen junk, scrap metal, old, virtually worthless coins, tangled wood. In essence, these artists are saying, “Watch this! I’m going to make something exquisite, interesting, beautiful, and powerful out of things that others would throw away.”

“For we are God's workmanship…” Paul, here, is talking about artwork—God’s artwork. You and me! We are God’s artwork created “…to do good works.” That’s great news because Paul started this passage by declaring us junk, “…you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” Because of our sins, we should have been thrown away, discarded, wasted. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive… for by grace through faith, you have been saved…” You know, God has done some great artwork around us such as the sun, the moon, the planet, the sky, the water, and the mountains. But that’s not his best work—we are!

As you wander ArtPrize over the next couple of weeks, think about yourself as God’s ArtPrize. Let these statements ring through your head and heart as you enjoy the art in our town.

• God made me out of junk! I should have been thrown away!
• God paid a huge price for me to be made alive and be his artwork!
• My good works are on display as an exhibit of his grace!

This week’s author: Phil Niekerk, senior small groups pastor

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