Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Fearless Artist

Artists are some of the most fearless people I know. They push on through constant rejection, through financial burdens greater than they can deal with, through the incessant noise of the 21rst century, through millions of other artists who are also trying to make a mark, and through a variety of other difficulties and dangers that the average human couldn't take for a moment, never mind a lifetime.

We are told that "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18) and so I immediately think that perhaps it is love that drives the artist to cope with the fears that being an artist puts forward. Along with being fearless, artists are often the most empathetic people I know, they are also incredibly emotional, they long to be known by others, they long to see the disenfranchised of humanity get their shot, they are...loving. Artists have hearts as big as the sky and as deep as the ocean and they long to share themselves with others.

I believe what sits in the crux of true love and overcoming fear is a word that Christians are well-familiar with and that is sacrifice. Sacrifice is perhaps the greatest act of love a person can partake in. Sacrifice is what artists do everyday as they overcome their fears in order that they may make sense out of their world NOT just for themselves, in fact NOT mostly for themselves BUT for others. Artists need an audience because without that audience the art may cease to exist. Artists will push beyond the comfortable to get a taste of what true community is like. They will sacrifice their time, skills, resources, egos, hopes, dreams, etc. for the sake of connecting. The act of creating a true and holy work of art is one of pain, rejection, trial and error, endurance, skill, endless hours, and the list keeps going. The artist sacrifices so that they can be known by others and others can be known to them and they try, desperately to help humankind understand who we are and why we are here.

This constant sacrifice is literally and figuratively dying to oneself so that one truly may live. This is the essence of the Christian walk and artists do this daily. The artist becomes the best they can be when an audience has shared a moment with the artists work. Here is a story:

My wife Jennifer was laboring over a production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel. I was choreographing the piece and I can assure you that labor is the correct word to use when describing this production. Many hours and dollars were spent putting this piece together. The actors worked tirelessly to craft a powerful performance and most audience members who saw the show...liked it, or at least were amused by the production. We, as theatre artists, are certainly happy when we entertain people, after all, maybe we can give the audience a break from their everyday life and invite them into a fantasy world in which they might relax and dream for a couple of hours. We love doing that, but with all that work, we certainly hope someone will perceive us as a bit more than a trifle or and entertainment. Well, after one evenings production a man came up to Jennifer with tears streaming from his eyes and he said that he and his wife saw the original production in New York City and it was one of their favorite musicals. He went on to say that she had recently passed away and this evening was such a blessing for him because the play had come to mean so much to their relationship. He thanked her and left the building.

This is an example of hours of sacrifice by multiple artists which coalesced into a shared moment of beauty. A moment of divine communion, a moment of love.

Thank goodness we have artists and may God encourage them all to sacrifice for their calling, to continue to be fearless, to passionately pursue communion, to show us all how to love.