Opening Night Talk for the LCACU Art Exhibition 2017
Welcome to the Leeds College of Art Christian Union exhibition Lost and Found. My name is Emily, I am the founding artist of fiftyfive11art (you can ask me about why it’s named that another time!) and I sell at exhibitions, online in a few different places but mostly through commissions. I am also a Christian and come to church here at St George’s and I’ve been asked to just talk for just a couple of minutes about the theme of lost and found and the story behind my painting, Jars of Clay.
I wonder if any of this sounds familiar - Deadlines. Work. Colleagues. Tutors. Lecturers. Parents. Children. Friends. Projects. Taxes. Bills. School. Spouse. Commission. Your boss. Life. Life is busy. Life is happening all the time. We barely stop to take a breath, and yet on. it. goes. Some of it great, some of it hard. But constant. Life is constant. From the alarm on Monday morning through to the last minute preparations for the week ahead on Sunday night, constant demands, constant pressure, constant thoughts.
I don’t know about you, but I can get lost in the midst of life. I can get lost in the middle of all the ‘stuff’ that needs to happen. Do you ever feel like that? Like who even are you? Are you just surviving from one moment to the next? Are you serving and providing and fixing and working…?
I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest that we’re all lost to a greater or lesser degree. Lost in life. Lost in the midst of the demands and busyness of the ‘stuff’ we have to do. Perhaps even lost in your own head, drowning in thoughts and questions that pester you day in day out but you don’t really have the time to give them the attention they deserve in order to find the answers you’re looking for.
Are you trying to find yourself?
Are you waiting to be found?
Do you even know where to look?
And what does that even mean?!
My painting here tonight is called Jars of Clay. It is a painting that gives us glimpses into the potential, the beauty, the complex and intricate mix of emotion, personality, character and soul within us all. You see I believe that in this room - whoever we are, we all have something in common - we are all creative and full of potential. Because we have all been created by a creative creator. God made us and knows each one of us. He knows what makes us tick. What excites us. What scares us. God knows the things we’d never tell, and the things we want everyone to see. The Bible calls us God’s workmanship, his work of art, his masterpiece.
On the outside of Jars of Clay, it’s just white. Cracked, a bit broken, like a damaged jar of clay. Much like our lives on the outside, cracked, battered, worn around the edges, under stress... But underneath. Oooh underneath, that’s where it’s all going on. And I’m the creator of the painting. So I know. And because I’m the artist I could tell you exactly what went into that painting, how long it took, the colours used, the way in which they were selected, blended and applied. I know the beauty, the complexity and the intricate mixture of colour that is going on underneath that white. I can see something when I look at that painting that no one else can see. I know the true value and the true worth. If you want to find out about the depth of this painting and the soul, then you can ask me, and I can tell you, and then what is hidden behind the white, what is lost would be found.
The Bible tells us that we all have a hope in Jesus that far outweighs the stress and the confusion of getting lost in the craziness of life. We have treasure within these broken jars of clay - we’re all a bit cracked and broken, but we all have God potential - we are all made in the image of the creator God with so much colour and beauty waiting to be unleashed - but we need to ask the artist, the creator to help us unlock that. Michaelangelo was once asked what he was doing chipping away at a shapeless, lifeless piece of rock. His answer, “I’m liberating an angel from this stone”. That’s what God wants to do with us. Jesus came to liberate us. We need to go to the artist to understand the masterpiece. Just like you can ask me about my painting, we can freely ask God about us.
And just like we can be lost and God can find us. God also wants us to find Him.
He is desperate to be found.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”
God wants to be found.
In his desperation to be found, God didn’t remain distant, He didn’t remain far away, he came. He came close. He didn’t remain a white canvas with no indicator to who He is. He came to us, in Jesus, like us, to be with us, full of colour, to find us, to reveal himself… and to bring us home, so that we could be found. And finding God means finding ourselves and accessing perfect peace in the midst of the craziness of life.
I can get quite emotional about my jars of clay painting - and lots of people have asked to buy it many times over - but I won’t sell it. And here’s why. Every time I look at this painting, I am reminded that my Heavenly Father sees the real me. He knows my name. He knows all about the cracks and the damage in my life, the unworthiness, the flaws. But He also knows my potential and sees me as wonderful and worthy of being loved. And he knows you too.
I believe that everybody wants to be found. Everybody wants to be truly known and seen, to find belonging, purpose and value. In my life the times when I am most lost are the times when I forget that I am God’s masterpiece and in Him I am already found. So I don’t get lost in the worry of whether people like my work, or accept me. Because I know the one who gets the real me, sees me in all of my brokenness, all of my flaws, but also sees the potential and beauty within me - because He put it there.
I am completely free, because I have been fully found.