This text was created in partnership with InterVarsity Press.
Art is an inspiration and an escape. Artwork soothes the soul, broadens the thoughts, and renews our religion within the goodness of life. And if artwork is such an ethereal and enchanting factor, certainly artists and artwork lovers should stay on one other aircraft of existence altogether, excessive above the remainder of us.
The reality is—as biographies, historical past books, and information tales reinforce again and again—that artists and artwork lovers stay lives simply as messy as anybody else’s. Usually messier. Painfully messy, actually.
It’s perpetually tough for many who love their creativity to grasp and to reconcile it with their darkish sides.
One thing in us, one thing that desires fact and sweetness at all times to stroll serenely hand in hand, rebels on the thought that the artist who painted that chic panorama was a jerk to his spouse. Or that the composer or author whose work has pulled us by way of so many darkish instances had darkness in his or her personal soul. How can this be true? How can two such extremes exist in a single individual? How, because the Bible would put it, can mild have any fellowship with darkness?
It appears as if there’s one thing in regards to the capability to see, hear, and really feel deeply that makes life too intense to bear calmly. As The Scientific American put it, “More creative people include more events/stimuli in their mental processes than less creative people. . . . It seems that the key to creative cognition is opening up the flood gates and letting in as much information as possible.” However an excessive amount of data will be, nicely, an excessive amount of data. Few on this fashionable age are absolutely outfitted to deal with the deluge of sensory experiences and feelings that drive essentially the most artistic amongst us.
That depth doesn’t at all times correlate with sickness or result in damaging habits, however all too steadily, there’s a connection. Everyone knows the tales: Beethoven descending into deafness, melancholy, and rage. Van Gogh’s self-mutilation and eventual self-destruction. Then there are the celebs, from Judy Garland to Marilyn Monroe to Elvis Presley to Kurt Cobain to Whitney Houston, all succumbing to drug or alcohol habit. We all know in regards to the egocentric and unhealthy behaviors of a lot of our best artists, and their tragic fallout within the lives of others. It’s perpetually tough for many who love their creativity to grasp and to reconcile it with their darkish sides.
However Christians of all folks ought to perceive, at the least a bit. We profess to imagine that every one of us have darkness inside us—a lot darkness that Christ’s demise is the one hope now we have. So once we see the battle between hope and despair writ giant within the lives and work of artists, we should always acknowledge it. Greater than that, we should always establish with it and know that it’s the battle that makes their work, and its results on us, so highly effective.
In Sharon Garlough Brown’s new novel, Shades of Gentle, protagonist Wren Crawford is an achingly delicate younger girl, coping with psychological sickness of her personal at the same time as she tries to assist others in her profession as a social employee. On the instances when her struggling is worst, Wren clings not solely to her remedy and medicine, however to somebody whose work and life are vastly significant to her: Vincent Van Gogh.
It’s not simply that she’s drawn to Van Gogh’s artwork; Wren additionally identifies with the messiness of his life—his personal battle towards psychological sickness (a lot much less understood and fewer treatable in his time), the pressure it placed on his relationships along with his family members, the best way it broken and at last ended his profession in ministry. Like Vincent, Wren sees and feels with an depth that may deepen her compassion but additionally spill uncontrollably into all areas of her life, turning into greater than she will deal with on her personal.
“She’d even written her college honors thesis on the potent spirituality of his art and the chiaroscuro of his sorrowing, rejoicing life,” Brown writes, “the shadows of despair streaked by what he called ‘a ray from on high.’”
“Chiaroscuro” derives from the Italian phrases for mild and darkish. Van Gogh had an intimate data of the painful conflict between darkness and lightweight—the way it fuels one’s artwork even because it fractures one’s life. Many artists share that data. Generally these forces can harmonize; typically they develop dissonant and clanging. Generally they appear to do each on the identical time, just like the late Beethoven string quartets that shocked and appalled a lot of his contemporaries however now are hailed as avant-garde.
Generally we will be introduced again from the brink by the reminder that somebody we admire felt the darkness too. The ache, anguish, and darkness of nice artwork and nice artists may even level us to the cross the place Christ, whose personal mild was by no means dimmed, had the worst expertise of darkness that anybody ever might.
Artwork—and artists—could not at all times have escape, consolation, and lightweight to supply. However even once they don’t, they might have a voice that reaches us in our personal deepest and darkest locations.