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Art and the Light

By Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien'
By Christine O'Brien
My earliest memories are of the ecstatic feeling of oneness with the natural world filled with God's quiet breathing. Swinging high in my swing beneath the black walnut tree, I felt myself a part of the house, the barnyard, the road, the tiny stream, the very air itself. Sitting at my grandmother's kitchen table, we read a Bible verse every day. Her favorite was "This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it." The things that unfolded at her kitchen table became my sacraments: the vegetables gathered in the garden and "put up" into red, green yellow-filled Mason jars; the noodles rolled out, cut and left to dry; the honey with its drowsy bees brought into the back porch, then glowing in its comb in rows of jars.

This - the colors, the sunlight, the unfolding, the attention, the intention, the sacred process of the beauty of the things of my everyday life - this is how I came to want to make art. Today my home is filled with art of all kinds. There are paintings by me, my grandfather, my daughter, my friends. I look at them every day and never grow blind to them. They glow like those Mason jars on the shelves of Grandma's pantry, harvested in some other summer, illuminating this moment, food for the future.

Eating - each meal, the beauty of the leek or lettuce, the knife carefully used, the cast iron skillet tended with love, every bite tasted and savored - is a sacrament to me. Something dies so I can live. Art is a sacrament too. Something is created that calls us to experience the clouds, the flowers, the teacup. Light is at the heart of all this. In the real world, it allows us to see the colors and forms, it causes the food to grow, it allows us to see the beautiful. In the world of spirit, it illuminates our path and where we are on it, to grow toward the beautiful. Though I know the darkness of the injustice and violence people can create, and that art can reveal these truths, for me, the gratitude I feel for the beautiful world is what I hold up in my paintings.

Through these sacraments born of light, I bow to the world's beauty and the possibility of beauty in each beloved child of God.

Published in What Canst Thou Say? in May 2002

Christine O'Brien is retiring from clerking the St. Petersburg Meeting for nearly 24 years. She has organized Circus McGurkis, an annual "People's Fair," for 31 years.