Thursday, October 21, 2010

Complexity in Unity

I read an article in some homeschool publication once about teaching art appreciation. It said that one quality which makes great art is that the piece has complexity and yet has unity. I'm no great artist or art critic, and I'm sure those who are would add to that summation, but I do like that description: complexity in unity.

That has come to my mind a few times lately in some varied environments. Some mosaic projects my girls did in our homeschool co-op made me think of artistic-looking furniture pieces I've seen at places like ArtSplash. Individually, the piece looks really cool -- a great work of art. But I can't see it in my house. The end table may have complexity and unity in itself, but when added to my living room, it would disrupt any sense of unity there.

Decorating for the holidays brings the concept to my mind again as well. We got out the fall/Halloween decorations last week. It always bugs me what a conglomeration of stuff we have. Craft projects from the early years, items that have been gifted to us, cheesy little toys the girls got in Sunday School or something. Complexity we abound in -- unity is nowhere to be found.

And the lack of unity grates on me when I'm living in the midst of it day in and day out. I'm finding that the unity side of this equation is much more important to me personally. I seem to be more of a big picture kind of gal when it comes to visual things. I can have an idea of how I want my bedroom to look, or the kind of outfit I want to wear to the premiere, but I don't have a clue how to pull the different individual elements together to make it happen. The little pieces -- the complexity -- are beyond me.

But I'm not that way in everything. The last couple days, I've been working on instruction lists for our backstage crew for the homeschool play. Four of our backstage people have "kid wrangling" in their job description -- getting kids where they need to be when they need to be there. I'm typing up lists for each of them of which kids they need to be responsible for getting to certain stage areas at specific times. It's very detailed work. And I'm kind of revelling in it. This complexity I can deal with and even enjoy. Yet, if I had to get all the costumes and props together for this production, it would literally make me cry.

All this to say . . . I'm wondering if this "complexity in unity" idea can reveal things about ourselves. I think the activities where I am most competent at pulling together complex details into a unified whole (and enjoy the process) are the activities where God has most gifted me. When God has gifted us, we become "artists" in that endeavor, whether it's painting, directing, teaching, selling, or plumbing. And when we see the fruits of our labor as a work of art, we are more motivated, more successful, and more fulfilled.

1 comment:

Robin Shreeves said...

If you'd like to explore the art concept further, you should read Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.

It's one of those books that are on my "books that changed my life" list.