art is prayer

Everything I paint is a prayer.

Every painting I make has beneath it, written on the canvas, an actual prayer. A letter to God.

Every painting is a prayer of longing or thanksgiving or acknowledgement.

I try to ask only for the things God can actually do – help me open my heart, help me see in a new way, help me draw closer to God.

Sometimes a prayer simply says, I don’t want to carry this anymore. Could you help me carry it, please?

Sometimes a prayer says, I’m not quite sure what to do here. Please advise.

I write these prayers and something happens.

Something happens as I paint.

Memories rise to the surface. Emotions roll through my body. My heart softens. I leave this time and space.

There have been times when I have painted all day. All day. I feel like I just got out of bed but when I look up, it’s five o’clock. I’ve been time-warping with God. I’ve been somewhere else.

My paintings are not important.

The fact that I make art is not important.

Except to me and my soul.

Sometimes when I look at a painting, I can remember the prayer that gave birth to it. Sometimes I can’t.

But the prayer is still there. It’s still alive.

When I think about the artwork that has moved me, it all seems like prayer. Whether or not the artist intended it to be. Whether the artist was atheist or religious. It’s all essence and story. Prayer.

I think of Frida Kahlo‘s deeply intimate self portraits, her heart exposed.

I think of Edward Hopper and those luminous, lonely diners.

I think of Nan Goldin and her aching personal photographs.

Art is an opening.

Art that does not allow itself, or the artist to be vulnerable and seen exposed, has never meant much to me.

Art that is all skill and no heart doesn’t sing to me. It doesn’t change anything.

But art that opens up a wound or a joy, art that burrows deeply down into the “self” of the artist – that’s the art that moves me.

And that’s prayer.

It’s communion with God.

Sometimes we get prayer all wrong. We ask God to fix things that only we can fix. We ask God to make us rich or thin or ease the pain of the world while all the while God is begging us to do what we need to do to ease the pain of the world.

Did you ever think that God prays back to you? That just as you speak to God, God speaks?

Painting is a dialogue. I speak first and then I listen while God speaks. We speak to one another with paint.

I paint my own prayers.

I paint yours, too.