The artistic vocation in the service of beauty
3. A noted Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid, wrote that “beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up”.(3)
The theme of beauty is decisive for a discourse on art. It was already present when I stressed God’s delighted gaze upon creation. In perceiving that all he had created was good, God saw that it was beautiful as well.(4) The link between good and beautiful stirs fruitful reflection. In a certain sense, beauty is the visible form of the good, just as the good is the metaphysical condition of beauty. This was well understood by the Greeks who, by fusing the two concepts, coined a term which embraces both: kalokagathía, or beauty-goodness. On this point Plato writes: “The power of the Good has taken refuge in the nature of the Beautiful”.(5)
It is in living and acting that man establishes his relationship with being, with the truth and with the good. The artist has a special relationship to beauty. In a very true sense it can be said that beauty is the vocation bestowed on him by the Creator in the gift of “artistic talent”. And, certainly, this too is a talent which ought to be made to bear fruit, in keeping with the sense of the Gospel parable of the talents (cf. Mt 25:14-30).
Here we touch on an essential point. Those who perceive in themselves this kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation—as poet, writer, sculptor, architect, musician, actor and so on—feel at the same time the obligation not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbour and of humanity as a whole. – St. John Paul II Letter to Artists
This whole section speaks to my heart. As I’ve improved as a quilt maker, no check that, all along as a quilt maker the desire to help and encourage quilters figure things out, to help quilters try new things, to allow them to see the good in their work has been essential to who I am and what I do. This helps me as well. I get a better handle on what’s working for me and what’s not. I get a better handle on how to approach quilters – recognizing that deep down snark, while effective, doesn’t always work.
The thing is we all know where all of the flaws in our quilts are. We see them, glaringly, because we’re the ones who made that “mistake”. Sometimes these mistakes are not seen until later or they are things that we can not control. Then we get anxious because we know that the person receiving the quilt will see that mistake and point it out to us. Generally they won’t see it or point it out.
The flaws in our quilts are not their to humiliate us – to make us feel “less than”. They are just part of that quilt. I can point out to you all of the flaws in @play. I can tell you why this will never be an award winning quilt. I can tell you I was gutted to send it off without blocking the quilt first. I just did not have time. I can also tell you that when I made this quilt I was in a very rough time emotionally. Very rough. But what I see in this quilt – even knowing the entire back story of this quilt – stitching in every problem – is great joy. I see my love for quilt making. I see how I persevered through. I see how I just made the due date by the very skin of my teeth. But I did it. I can see that I am different and unique and something of a risk taker. To me right now these things are important. These are qualities and characteristics that would not have crossed my mind years ago, nor are these things that would have crossed my lips into the public forum about myself because they would have sounded like stinky self-praise.
Now I see this as an acknowledgement of the gift of God in my life. The gift of quilting – the gift of being inspired by the Creator, his creations and the way he has moved in the minds, hearts and hands of others.