Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Faith Works 8-23-14

Faith Works 8-23-14

Jeff Gill


Can Art save us?



With so many major social concerns and global fears dominating headlines and filling online discussions, it seems like a good time to talk about art.


No, seriously.


I have and will talk about the truly horrifying ethnic cleansing and religious persecution going on in the Middle East that is truly without precedent, and racism is still our great national ill for which treatment and recovery is still in question. All need consideration, no doubt about it.


Which may make it even more important, at times, to step back, and look at the bigger picture. Yes, even a bigger picture than existential threats to nations or peoples, or intractable evil inflicting pain on the helpless. Because they don't tell a true story, and they aren't the wide view.


For that, you need art.


As a Christian, I have some particular views on what, or rather Who will save us: from hopelessness, from fear, from ultimate destruction. I also have a pastor's perspective on what it takes to help people lift their heads and see that good news possibility in their own future. What it takes is what it takes, or as Francis of Assisi is reputed to have said, "Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words."


Sometimes, you need art.


Full disclosure: I've known Marilyn Stocker almost since the first time, 25 years ago next month, I wandered into Licking County. She's an actress, an educator, and a very well known artist in our area. I've also performed weddings for her children, appeared in performances with her "Suitcase Theatre Company" in a variety of unusual locations around the county, and consider myself her pastor. So I may be biased.


But I truly think she is an inspirational person, even if that might not exactly be the phrase she would pick.


Marilyn is, as the French would say, a woman of a certain age. And at that age, she is doing something too few of us do, which is take into account the shape of the world without her in it. A more pious person might say she's "contemplating her mortality," or we could just say Ms. Stocker is taking stock. (Booooooo!)


On Friday, August 29th, at the Licking County Arts Gallery on 50 S. 2nd St. in Newark, Marilyn is hosting a "Lifetime of Art" sale; it also has the subtitle (or is it a surtitle?) "Just in Case," a double pun because she's opening up her cases and canvases and collection of art she's created herself, and putting it on display and yes, on sale.


Because she wants her art in homes, and not in storage. And she doesn't want her children, someday, "just in case something happens to her," having to figure out what to do with all this art.


So from 6 to 8 pm next Friday, and through September in the LCA gallery Tuesdays through Saturdays 11 am to 4 pm, she's putting her paintings, drawings, multi-media creations, and all manner of art out for the rest of us to enjoy, and maybe even to take home. It's not about the money, as everything is marked low enough to give everyone a chance to take something out of the gallery with them, or at least that's the goal!


And my respect for Marilyn herself aside, I think that it's precisely at a time such as this that people of faith, and those with social concerns, need a good strong reminder that few weighty matters, of the heart, of the body politic, or even of the soul, are decided entirely on the basis of words and argument and rhetoric. We use debate and discussion, and put talking heads up on screens to stand in for discourse, but we think and decide what's important to us on the basis of images and ideals.


Art has always been central to the communication and formation of Christian faith, and indeed of any religious faith with very few exceptions. It is perhaps indicative that some of the most frightening ideologies out there haunting our dreams are hostile to almost any form of artistic expression other than words, and the words they choose.


Art alone may not save us, but we are saved through making connections, and art is the great means to greater ends, and Marilyn's art has always been open to bringing hearts and minds together. Or as E. M. Forster said of the novelist's art: "Only connect."


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's been known to be guilty of committing acts of art from time to time himself. Connect with him at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.