ArtPrize 2015: What am I?

The Hand of Creation by Charles ShermanWhat are you?  What am I?  What is any human being?  It’s a hard question.  Plenty of impressive ArtPrize creations offer imaginative ways of seeing what the human individual is.  Let’s look at a few.

The Hand of Creation,” by Charles Sherman

I couldn’t view Charles Sherman’s sculpture  “The Hand of Creation” without thinking of Michelangelo’s well known fresco “The Creation of Adam.”  In “The Creation of Adam,” God’s hand is reaching toward but not touching Adam’s hand.  The two male figures are separate, distinct beings.  In contrast, Sherman’s work depicts the Creator’s hand with a downward pointing finger, out of which flows a sort of umbilical cord, or even a uterus, and from which, in turn, flows a man.  At first I interpreted the image in the traditional theological framework: In his creative power, almighty God made man, a separate being.  But I realized that in contrast to Michelangelo’s image of separate beings, Sherman’s sculpture molds the Creator’s hand, the umbilical cord, and the man into one flowing process of creation.  In his accompanying statement, Sherman says, “The Hand of Creation represents the unity of the universal creative process with Divine inspiration and creativity.” 

 “The Art of Life,” by Leslie Adams

 “The Art of Life,” by Leslie Adams does not include a separate creator either.  The charcoal and chalk drawing pictures the artist’s own journey of creation as a mass of luxurious clutter.   She says of the piece, “…it portrays me in my studio surrounded by images of family, newspaper clippings chronicling my career, and monographs on influential teachers, mentors and artists.”   I thought of the Leslie Adams in the drawing as part creator,  part a reflection of her work, and part a creation of others.  I sensed that she discarded any attempt to find theological or philosophical context for her work—that she wanted the art and her journey to speak for themselves. 

Transcending Time,” the oil portrait by Kathleen Piccione

Thinking of yourself as a direct creation of God or of yourself as a creator are only two ways to think of what you are.  When I saw the beautiful and powerful visage of the native American girl in “Transcending Time,” the oil portrait by Kathleen Piccione, I first thought of the personal strength she embodied.  Then I read in the artist’s statement: “This painting depicts a young Native American girl in her regalia as she is waiting to dance at the Crow Fair in Montana.  Her facial expression was so intense at that moment that I felt she could be from any point and time in history.  She is a great example of native youth continuing the traditions of her ancestors.”  Her image then said to me, “I am my own person, but I am also one with my ancestors.”

Soul Series,” by Malia Rae

Rather than thinking of yourself as a product of God or of your past, you might think of yourself first of all as an explorer, a role that implies leaving the anchors of the past behind.  After all, isn’t discovery the most exciting part of life?  The evocative photographs of “Soul Series,” by Malia Rae, suggest that the richest part of life lies outside ourselves, yet we become part of the adventure too.  Each of the three double-exposure photographs places a man or woman in a natural, but somehow also mystical realm, as if to say “What wonder surrounds you!  Open your eyes and see!”  Maybe, more than anything else, we are explorers!

So, what are you:
A creature of God? 
A creator? 
The embodiment of your past?
An explorer?
What answer comes most quickly to your mind?

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