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Blog

Is it art?

Lou Kaloger

13 john-baldessari-the-pencil-story-1972

There's an American artist; his name is John Baldessari. In 1973 he mounted two photographs of a pencil on a board. Beneath these photographs is his hand-lettered story of this pencil. So I look at this work and I wonder how it ever made its way into a gallery. It’s certainly no Mona Lisa; it’s definitely no Sistine Ceiling. Is it art? I’m not sure. I suppose if it is art it is because Baldessari causes us to reflect (at least for a moment) on the actual nature of art. Art expresses skill, and art expresses emotion, but art also reflects change. Clay is molded, wood is carved, stone is chiseled, words are arranged, a pencil is sharpened. Something rough is made into something more beautiful, or more useful, or more provocative, or all the above. Art speaks of transformation and sacrifice. Even the dull pencil had to give up something. Did it hurt? Probably.

So I think of our own lives. I wonder what it means when Paul writes, “For we are God’s masterpiece, created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Eph 2:10). Though we are guarded and defensive our God remains willing to mess with us. He is even willing to use others to mess with us. Something rough is made into something more beautiful, or more useful, or more provocative, or all the above. At least that’s the plan. Will it hurt? Probably.