It sometimes takes thick skin to be an artist.
This will be my eighth year in ArtPrize, and every year panic sets in when I send out requests to have my piece hosted by a venue. It’s very much like sending out resumes, with seemingly every ounce of experience and talent on the line. The clock ticks away as venues consider mountains of requests from a larger mountain of artists. Time passes and no one responds. Self-doubt creeps in. Self-worth looms in the corners of the mind. And still the clock ticks.
I sent out 12 requests to venues this year, representing an “A” list of ideal venues, a respectable “B” list, and a hodgepodge “C” list. I was rejected by 11. I never heard from the last one.
For the first time, however, I was approached by a venue that was nowhere on my radar. Its location is far off the grid, and will get only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of visitors some venues enjoy. Yet I am grateful.
Cornerstone Church is arguably the best fit for this year’s piece, “O That My Words Were Written.” I sent requests to two other church venues, but one of those is too wrapped up in social justice to bother with Holy Scripture. The other may be more concerned with cutting-edge beauty.
Even when considering my habit of juggling different subject matter, this year’s entry is very different. The word of God takes center stage in my piece. There are no striking figures in the painting. There are no cute visual devices; nothing hidden to find. The background is dark and contains brambles reminiscent of tattered angel wings. A single stone megalith bears words written in Germanic blackletter characters. If fashion was used to describe artwork, “Goth” might cross the viewer’s mind.
Without the darkness of this world, with its disappointments and downfalls and shortcomings and ugly horrors, joy would seem as fluffy as cotton candy. But joy is much more substantial. In this piece I have partially given what Job could only pray – that his words would be written in stone forever. When all that he had was lost; when his friends chided him for his sins; when his children were taken from him; when his property was gone; when his health was in shambles; when his wife urged him to curse God and die; when he seemingly had nothing left, still he confessed he had everything – a Redeemer that lived. In his words were real joy, and we claim his words as our own.
We pray that the Word will have free course, that the good and gracious Will of the Father be done, that the Spirit will speak through us at the appointed time, and that the Gospel of Christ Jesus will spread to the ends of the earth. Perhaps thousands will not see this year’s ArtPrize entry. Perhaps, however, there is but one visitor somewhere out there who might chance upon my piece during ArtPrize, and perhaps that one person is the one who needs to read this small excerpt from the Book of Job. If I have done well by the Word of God, then I have done well, indeed.