Monday, September 26, 2011

01.20.10 Work of Art

Nearly a decade ago, my husband and I vacationed in Italy (*sigh*).  We stopped in Florence and decided to see Michaelangelo's David.  Now, I know this is an important piece of art, and that Michaelangelo is a certified master, but honestly, I wasn't particularly excited to view this work.  I later reflected that my apathy was due, in part, to my perceived familiarity with the sculpture.  The David has to be one of the most recognizeable and popularly reproduced images ever.  I think I felt like I had already "seen" it and had no need (desire) to get up close and personal with it.

My attitude was only reinforced upon discovery that the marble statue was not housed in a large and impressive museum, but, rather, in a wing of an art gallery in the city, entered through what appeared to be a side door from a narrow path.  We came into the opening foyer, rounded the corner, and were suddenly confronted with one of the most famous pieces of Renaissance Sculpture.  It literally took my breath away.

I was first taken aback by the sheer size of the figure.  Seventeen feet is short enough that you feel the reality of its human representation but large enough that you are in awe before it.  I simply stopped in my tracks, about 10 feet from the sculpture, and stared in silence.  I was completely unprepared for the response that was welling up within me. 

Just like the many visitors in the gallery, I didn't know how to take it all in.  I circled slowly beneath him a few times, studying every detail of the form and commenting on the general beauty of appearance.  At last, I took a seat across the room and, from a distance, continued to marvel at the art looming before me. 

I'm no art student, but I am aware of some of the artistic impressiveness of this piece.  The block of marble that Michaelangelo used had been neglected for twenty-five years, exposed to the elements in the yard of a cathedral workshop.  Many other masters refused to touch the 'damaged' stone.  The stance that the artist chose for his subject is apparently a more difficult form to carve, as it offsets the spine, shoulders, and general shape of the human body.

In short, David is clearly a masterpiece.  We stared at him in wonderment for a solid 30 minutes, but I could easily have stayed all day.  (this is saying alot, coming from me)  As I gazed around the room, watching the many eyes that were fixed on the work of art, I suddenly felt a pang of sadness. 

This sculpure has been studied, replicated, admired and appreciated for hundreds of years, and it will continue to be so.  I am certain that countless people, artists and non, have taken pleasure sitting in that room, staring at this statue.  When we view David, we not only react to what we are seeing, but also to the artist who created it.  We comment on his talent, his brilliance, his perseverance (the work took 3 years to complete), his artistry, the beauty of the finished product. 

No one would dare suggest that this statue simply appeared out of nowhere, or that, in sitting neglected for so many years, the wind and rain randomly affected that block of marble until it was formed into so perfect a human likeness.  In other words, we stare at that lifelike - but lifeless - body and easily affirm that an artist created it.

Why, then, is it so easy for us to ignore the brilliant artistry of our own bodies?  Why do we refuse to believe that a creator formed us, had a picture of us in mind and then designed us to that image?  The human body is infinitely more complex and beautiful than the David, but we still insist that we are the result of happenstance, of atoms randomly colliding together. 

I believe in logic.  And I know I would be considered the most illogical person in the world if I insisted that the David was an accident of nature and not the product of personal, intentional, artistic design.  So I am simply asking us to consider - if we look at a piece of art and cannot deny the artist who made it, then we must apply that logic to something more incredible, more difficult by far to produce, and conclude that we were created, on purpose, by the ultimate Artist.               

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

   a psalm of David, praising God for his amazing artistry

No comments:

Post a Comment