Art in Unexpected Places

       Image result for artist painting
        I watch as the 19-year-old slowly opens his notebook to read his poem to ten strangers, daring the possibility of critique. He is new. I have only seen him twice before. As his lips move, his heart speaks one turn of a phrase after another, the rhythm of the piece never ceasing to touch a depth that we all, his readers, feel. I hear his words but dig around for their meaning that goes beyond surface definition.

       We are a Writer’s Group that meets twice each month to chisel each other’s talents, encouraging the labor-intensive process that comes with our common goal of becoming better writers. We have all set other things in our lives aside to focus on the task of putting words on paper and then reading them aloud, releasing the white doves into the expansive sky.

       The new kid reads, and his art unfolds like a vulnerable flower, and we gently touch its petals. We take in the color, the brightness of its youth, the fragility of its velvet edges.

      I listen to his words gaining strength after each stanza, and I think, We need this.   

      I so appreciate another point of view, a personality revealed through a poem. His vocabulary is more extensive than mine, his thoughts much more philosophical. He is different from me, and I need that.

      I need art to give me hope, something to bring relief in the madness.

      It could be said that there’s not a lot of money in an art career. Many parents have been disappointed to hear of their son or daughter dropping out of college to chase the wind which could be a career in painting, writing, dancing, singing, acting.

      These are not certain careers, these are not steady paychecks, these paths are not what some parents dream for their children.

       But the desire for art is a taste in the mouth that does not rinse away. To a painter, the itch to paint is compulsive. To a singer, a music sheet of chords and notes is like a drug calling, beckoning, tempting.

       And when the audience breathes in the masterpiece, they encounter magic.

      Art comes in unexpected places. Last weekend I saw swirls of purple and blue paint stuck to paper towel from remodeling our fixer-upper of a house. Its beauty was breathtaking. The deep purple intertwined the navy contrast in such perfection with no mistakes, no ugly patches, no gaps.

      Accidental paper towel art? Really?


      It was a slice of heaven on a Saturday afternoon, lying innocently on a black tarp in my half-remodeled guest room.

      Art sprinkled down on me last month during a house concert in my friend’s backyard under white twinkle lights strung from roof to fence in the 70-degree evening sky.

      Singer and songwriter Jonnie Morgan clamped the strings on his guitar while introducing the next song. He explained to a small crowd how his wife had breast cancer and a double mastectomy shortly after their wedding. As he spoke, it was if his chest was open in exposure, baring his most tender parts to us. His words were strong from years of resilience, but the facts remained.

      He paused and then looked down at his guitar to find the opening chord and then said, “Yeah, it sucked. So that’s when I wrote this song.”

      What would we do? How could we honor his bravery?

      As he sang the song about his sweet wife, I felt tears fall down my cheeks. Tears I knew were there during his story could now be released because of the compelling music.

      His art moved me. I so needed that. I needed his story to touch my secret pain, my secret story. I need his art to set my art free.

     We crave the unique art that is forged through the mistakes, the pain, the walk through the valley. I long to see how one takes what has been given and crafts something cracked but beating its heartbeat, teeming with life.

     We need to see how someone can paint the sunset, capturing the hues in the cloud with the tiny paintbrush and a slew of turquoise, yellow, orange and pink on the pallet.

     We need to hear the strum of the guitar, the squeak of the strings as fingers slide and scurry across the well-worn face.

     We need to hear the cracks and crevasses in your voice, the throaty melody, the lofty soaring high notes that give us chills. We need to see the muscles in your neck bulge as you strain to sing your best for us. When you close your eyes and lift your hands, we know that you feel the art too.

     We need the pottery you kilned after hours on the spinning wheel. We need your beads on a stringed bracelet, jewels on hoop earrings. We need your wood carvings, your photos of Spanish moss drifting in the wind as it clings to scratchy trees, your framed quotes in delicate handwriting.

      We need your strong fingers to reach the next octave on the ivory keys, and the low notes to bring us home at the end of the song. Your art gives us hope that life can come together in the end. You give us the finality we need in the mess of this world.

      Artists were created by the most artistic God. He planted the seeds of art in your DNA before you were ever born. We choose those seeds and feed them. Because when we take the time to cultivate those seeds and bring them to life, they will, in turn, bring life to all of us.

      And oh, how desperate we are for that life.


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