“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
Another way to create art is to take away. To carve a statue, Michelangelo would have you believe that you simply remove from a block of marble everything that isn’t the figure you want to end up with.
Stained glass work does a little of both. Okay, so I’m no Michelangelo, and some would argue that stained glass work is more of a craft than an art. But I’m going to make the analogy anyway. First you take sheets of glass and cut/break/grind away the parts that aren’t your final piece. Then you take all the pieces and put them together to create something totally new.
And now for the real analogy: life is like a stained glass window (and a box of chocolates, but that analogy has already been used). Much of the time you are adding things into your life: new skills, new relationships, new knowledge... and you are creating something totally unique. Just like there is only one Mona Lisa, there is only one of you on this planet.
But sometimes, in crafting your life, you have to take things away. Unnecessary obligations that suck away your time and energy, toxic relationships, material possessions that cost so much to maintain they end up owning you rather than the other way around.
It’s an ongoing process. As I position my glass pieces into the panel and fit them into the channels of the lead came, sometimes I need to pull a piece back out and rework it a bit – grind a little more off the edges, reshape it to fit more snugly. Sometimes it just plain doesn’t fit, and I need to cut a new piece. If I were the perfect artisan, I wouldn’t need to do that, but I’m not perfect. And so I make adjustments as I go.
I’ve done a commissioned window for a church before, and the project I am working on now, a 14” by 16” panel depicting a sea shell surrounded by rectangles, does not compare to the five foot high Jesus beckoning to all who pass by on the street. But that was then, and this is now. My goals have simplified.
It’s not that I am settling for less. It’s that I need less, or maybe I’ve just figured out that I never needed more. Besides, my current project is destined for the nursery of my soon-to-be grandchild, and I don’t think the little tyke would want to be stared at all day by a strange man looming over the crib, no matter how benevolent he looks.
Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” As I continue to sculpt my life, it is intriguing to see the form evolving. The pieta is carved in stone and will never change. It is done. The cool part about life is that it can be a masterpiece even before it is done. And each day as it changes, as we add in and take away – it becomes a new masterpiece.
So maybe we are all Michelangelos. And this day, whether we pick up the paint brush or the chisel, we will be creating a work of art. I think I’ll call this piece “Wednesday.”