By Anna Kate McWhorter, Staff Writer
One of the first direct references to art in the Bible is found in Exodus 31. Here we find God giving instructions to Moses regarding the creation of a tent for the Ark of the Covenant, mentioning several skilled artisans—some even by name—whom God specifically appointed and equipped to create something beautiful enough to be worthy of housing something so sacred. Hence, not only does God appreciate artistic beauty, but God also wants us to create beautiful things (and, as Exodus suggests, God is perhaps the ultimate source of any inspiration or loveliness that ensues from that work).
Our scriptural canon even begins with an act—or series of acts—of God’s own artistic endeavors in Genesis: the mythic origins of the universe, of our home planet, of all the sprouting and creeping things of the Earth, of all the things that swim and fly and burrow…and us. In this grand orchestration of intentional creative energy, we are reminded throughout the Creation story that these things are good.
While I have not been appointed to create something as biblically significant as a holding place for the Ark, I firmly believe that when we create art in any form—be it poetry, prose, painting, or a few lines of music—we are collaborating with the Divine in the universe’s unending process of creation and re-creation, forever reimagining images or sounds to represent the beauty and Divine presence each of us holds within. Furthermore, such acts of artistic ambition can help us to process the mess that is our very lives and rediscover those most picturesque truths that we too frequently overlook—those reflections of God’s own self in our (at times) seemingly cosmically insignificant lives.
In my personal experience, art has gone far beyond just doodles in my class notes. (Let’s be honest, if you know me at all or have even taken a class with me, you know I’ve pretty much always got a sketchbook in hand). Creating images with my own hands is a vital form of self-preservation, of untangling my often convoluted thought processes, and is one of the only things that can continually make me recognize glimpses of the Divine image in myself. Below you will find snapshots of a few of my sketchbook pages from this semester so far, composed of words and images captured from or inspired by class lectures, discussions, personal interactions, and moments of Divine serendipity.
Like those artists commissioned to create a work of art admirable enough to house the Ark of the Covenant, may we recognize that we too, are filled “with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge, and with all kinds of skills” (Exodus 31:3).