A few months ago, I wrote about my Core— what stands when all else is stripped away. I am an artist at my core. I believe an artist means someone who lives to create new ways of seeing, breathes in color, line and shape, and who gains fulfillment by expressing through metaphor and symbol. Someone who is curious, always seeking, and who finds beauty in odd places, seeing beyond the superficial. It is an empowering, enlivening process. When I make art, I am settled.
In our recent art review, we wrote that an artist is also someone who is “able to make their internal perception into an external reality and vision for the viewer.” Since this month we are talking about Belief, I thought about how I have expressed my inner beliefs through my art over the years. When it comes to explaining my beliefs, sometimes, images speak far louder than words. The following paintings were displayed as part of my college senior art show, in which I explored the stories, myths and metaphors of my Mormon faith:
As a Mormon, I am filled with these stories from our various religious readings. One such metaphor from the Book of Mormon details a dream where a family finda and tries to hold on to that path to true happiness. Along the path are many distractions and obstacles blocking the way to their final destination where the “Tree of Life” waits for them, which represents complete peace and joy. I believe the “Tree of Life” is accessible to each and every one of us. Each path may be different, and this painting represents my path. Looking at it now, I realize that even my obstacles are represented by beautiful tree branches. Hmmmm….
Another story from Mormonism is about a group of fearsome warriors who, after being touched by the words of the prophets, vowed that they would never take up their weapons again. So great was their conviction, that they buried their weapons of war in the ground. When their enemies came, they would rather sacrifice their lives than fight again. When their enemies saw that they would rather die than fight, many of them decided to give up their weapons as well. To me, this story represents what I feel about the perils of fighting fire with fire, and the power of sacrificing your life for a greater cause: peace. I only wish I could live with that kind of conviction in my own life. I can think of a few things that I would like to “bury” and get rid of forever.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I believe that faith is like a “seed” that we plant, nurture, and experiment to see whether it is of value or not. When we realize that it is of value, we may say to ourselves: “It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” I love the idea that certain beliefs can be “delicious”.
I painted this one in response to a few verses from the Revelation:
“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.”
One thing I respect greatly is conviction. I understand that sometimes, we can be very convinced and very wrong, and sometimes there is a need to change our convictions. However, I believe that it is very important to be committed to something. And there is something very beautiful about remaining true to yourself in the face of high winds and waves. This is one of the reasons why politics makes me so cynical–when I see so many politicians changing their position from one week to the next. I have more respect for someone who is clear and consistent about what they believe (even if I don’t agree with them), than for someone who says anything to get people to like them.
I am still trying to work on not being “lukewarm”.
Ok, the first image is the only one I can find of the full 8ft x 2ft painting. It’s kind of fuzzy, and is in back of some friends of mine, so I also included a detail– and yes, it’s me again, this time as a flying head. The symbolism of this painting is meant to represent a core belief of mine, and one that was formed through being raised as a Mormon: My belief in the eternal nature of all of us. Believing that everyone has some divinity in them helped me get through the difficult teenage years where my self-esteem was bombarded on a daily basis. It has helped me find beauty in others, to respect others even if I don’t agree with them, and to find common ground. I really, truly believe that everyone has a potential for good in the world, and deserves to be loved and treated humanely. Am I perfect in practicing this? Not quite! But this belief helps to ground me.
So there it is. Some of my core beliefs presented in metaphor and paint. I am not sure the words did justice, but I hope I conveyed a sense of how my beliefs have shaped me, and how I have shaped my beliefs. Ultimately this post should show how much I believe in the power of art to express what words cannot.
— Madelene Pario