Paint Schoodic

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

My class at Highland Park.

Saturday was an exquisite day. My plein air class went to Highland Park to paint under the cherry blossoms. As we were packing up, inevitably conversation moved to what is possible in this life of ours, and how our view of God shapes our sense of our opportunities.

“I grew up in a church where every week I said, ‘I am a poor, miserable sinner,’” said one member of our little posse.

“I believe in a benevolent creator God who loves me and wants me to be happy,” I responded.

Painting by Carol Thiel
Of course both are true, and neither is complete. Unless one takes time to get to know God, one is at the mercy of every charlatan or self-deluded fool who claims to represent him.

As an artist, I make things that some other people regard as idols, so I’ve considered the Second Commandment. Perhaps the sin of idolatry isn’t in the craftsmanship that creates a golden calf at all, but in this kind of reductio ad absurdum of the character and nature of God. After all, would the children of Israel have fallen for something as absurd as the Golden Calf if it didn't have a grain of truth embedded in the lies?

Meanwhile, a tiny bird was twittering on a limb next to us. Barely larger than my thumb, it hopped and sang, sang and hopped. It was nothing short of a miracle in its small, perfect joy. It would be presumptuous of an artist to imagine that he or she could make anything as lovely, but it's a noble aspiration to try to capture a whisper of it to sustain us through the cold seasons.

How can one improve upon perfection?
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