Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with fellow artists. For over two hours we talked about faith, art, and life. I don’t want to go into the details of that conversation right now, but I do want to address the first of a couple thoughts that have clung to me since that evening. We, as artists, need to cultivate what I’m going to call bare naked honesty.
This thought began with a conversation about Christian discipleship. As we talked, it became fairly clear that many of us had developed most as artists under the leadership of atheists and non-Christians. One young man in particular pointed to atheist teachers who challenged his honesty. When they looked at his work, they felt he was not being entirely honest with himself. His work was only skating along the surface. It needed to go deeper. That challenge led to personal development as well as the exploration of anxiety and identity in his sculpture. I had the opportunity to hear his story that night, and to see his beautiful work. Work he had only been able to create because he chose to be vulnerable and honest in sharing his life, his identity and his feelings.
The interesting thing about honesty is that it leaves you vulnerable. You stand exposed. You are naked before others. You are naked before yourself. Rarely have I met an individual who is completely comfortable with that level of vulnerability. But it is that very vulnerable nakedness of identity that allows us to grow and to explore truth, and I believe truth is a key facet of artistic expression. When we are stripped of pretense, when we are stripped of others’ expectations, when we are stripped of our own overly simplistic ideals, we find freedom to ask the questions we are otherwise afraid of broaching. Often art is the visual representation of the question and the journey. Often art is a quest for truth, but truth can only be found where there is complete honesty. Honesty with ourselves and others that stands exposed and open even to opposition and pain. I hope that I can come to stand as courageously as those I met that night. Men and women who are naked before the world, sharing their struggles and their questions in their music, their painting, their sculpture, their art, so that they can find something more. So that they can discover truth, and, for those who share the beliefs I share, in so doing to find God who is by his very nature Truth.
I can only hope that my life and work will also come to be characterized by such bold and bare naked honesty.