Artwork as Cairns

Evangelistic artwork and the concept of cairns

Art speaks only to an excessively small group of people —Cézanne

When I first read this quote, I assumed it meant that a piece of artwork is seen by relatively few people. Since Cézanne’s time there have been massive advancements in the ability to share a piece of artwork (or anything) across the world, to the point it can be practically instantaneous. But after some additional thought, I believe the focus of the quote is on how many people a work speaks to—not how many eyes see it.

Switching gears, I’ve recently participated in classes on the books of Acts and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. As these books document the strategic spread of the gospel via the early Church, the biggest factor in making this happen (apart from the guidance of the Holy Spirit) was bold preaching. And that got me thinking about the evangelical aspect of art.

Let me first clearly state that I’m not saying a Christian artist should only make evangelical artwork. I’m not even saying the majority of it needs to be evangelical. But if the gospel message—the overarching theme of the Christian life—does not appear at all in one’s body of work, that’s a problem. And there are times pieces are overtly evangelical—at least that’s what I’ve found in my own life. These are the pieces I speak of below. And these are the pieces of which I ask myself, “How can they proclaim the gospel boldly?”

One way of answering that is by examining which of my pieces have made the biggest impact on people. I didn’t go in search of this answer, but the realization of the answer came to me over the past few weeks via a couple conversations and experiences.

Quite a few years ago I created a large wood burning. It depicted Jesus praying in the garden (overtly evangelical compared to my more recent works). I gave it to a friend of mine, Gina, who has quite a few people coming in and out of her home. Many people come to her for guidance and comfort and they see this artwork hanging above her kitchen table. A few weeks ago, Gina mentioned to me in passing that the artwork has led many people to Christ. I asked her what she meant by that. She said that friends and visitors will often notice the artwork and mention it—and that opens the door for her to share Christ. Now whether these people listened to her words or not, they were pointed to Christ.

The other story is one I’ve already related in a previous post. In summary, I created a relatively large piece of artwork made up of a chunk of wood and a pile of rocks. My friend, Melynda, loved it and I ended up installing it in her backyard. As I was installing it, her neighbor asked her the meaning of it and she, too, got to share the truth of Christ with him.

So which ones have had the biggest effect? It’s the large pieces. It’s also the ones I’ve given away.

Concerning size, the only reason I began creating large pieces in the first place is that they were made for events held in large spaces. It became an addicting practice. But now I’m starting to see their role as cairns. This is something Melynda mentioned to me and it was the purpose she wanted my artwork to have in her backyard. Cairns are large objects on the landscape that stick out and make people ask “Why?” or point them in a specific direction.

Concerning giving pieces away, this is something I usually don’t plan on doing, though it has happened quite often. But I make my living largely by creating artwork of one kind or another. So moving forward, these large pieces are now going to be a tithe of sorts. I’m not going to be selling them, but rather giving them away.

Referring back to the quote at the start of this article, I want these pieces of art to speak to people. Though they may never be seen by multitudes, they should to be seen by those who need to hear what they’re saying. I don’t want them simply beautifying homes—I don’t even want them to live in churches. Ideally, I want them to be in office spaces, or possibly in high traffic homes. I’m open to ideas if you have any! But I want them to act as cairns pointing to Christ, and I want them to go to people who will purposefully use them as such.

Time to get practical. I’ve been hanging on to my favorite piece—one called Root of Jesse. I recently redesigned my office and planned on Root of Jesse being the centerpiece as it fits the decor perfectly. It’s all set to hang on my wall—but few people come into this office and so few people would ever see it. No…my office is not going to be its home.

I need your help. Based on what I’ve written above, if you know of a good fit for this piece, please contact me with your idea!

2 comments

  1. Betty Gross

    This is very interesting and I agree that art is a very useful tool to point people to Christ and in as many ways as there are artists. God bless you as you continue to pursue this wonderful gift for God’s glory.

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