Church was never a pleasant experience for me as a child. Like every mother around the world, my mom was bent on finding the perfect church for our family. Her quest, spanning sparingly throughout my childhood and adolescence, couldn’t have left me more turned off than when we started. Though a challenge at times, my personality requires experience and hands-on approaches to understanding ideas such as math or science, and this was the same case with understanding religion and finding hope in the world.
This lack of understanding turned into pure, undiluted cynicism in my teenage years. In a post-9/11 world with terrorism, war, and poverty, hope seemed distant and for the most part nonexistent. It was at the peak of my disaffection that my school planned a three day trip to Berlin. Walking through the blood-stained rooms of a concentration camp should have amplified my negativity, if not for visiting a Jewish Museum filled with inspirational artwork beforehand. The shrill sounds of crude copper faces clanking against each other seemed to cry as they echoed throughout the Schalechet by Menashe Kadishman. Art was never special to me beforehand, it had always been there for me when I wanted it, but never had its imagery evoked such emotion as it did that day. Instead of seeing depressing images of injustice, I saw hope bleeding through these artists’ tribulations.
Since then I’ve come to understand that art and religion are inseparable. Most major religions believe in some form of a creator that we imitate when we create things ourselves through artwork. Art has made me see life, beauty, and even the less fortunate aspects of life in a new respect. Art never discourages me, in fact, I believe its job is to encourage and inspire hope. In art I see an idea or a feeling that someone felt was worth sharing, and if there was no hope for the world, then an artist would not bother to share anything at all.
Art is not only spiritual, but powerful enough that it can and has overcome the tests of time, governments, and major societal changes. The Great Pyramids of Egypt have seen everything from their creators of thousands of years ago to the scientists today. Expressions like the massive boulders at the Stone Henge and the enigmatic smile of the Mona Luise still intrigue us today. Art finds its way into our symbols, such as hieroglyphics, the Hammer and Sickle, the Black Power Fist, the Swastika, and even the Crucifix. All of those symbols and works of art conjure an image and a feeling, whether hate or love, and have continued meaning to this day.
To me, Art is the most religious and powerful part of my life. Art is the hands on approach I require to have hope, for understanding life, and if possible, God as well.
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