Why I Started Art Wednesday

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At the beginning of November, I began a weekly habit of posting art to my social media feeds—Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I call it Art Wednesday. Every Wednesday, over the course of the day, I post a series of eight to ten paintings based on an artist or a theme. I name each work and usually offer a small comment about each one.

I began this weekly ritual before I had a vision for what I was actually trying to do. It started because I had been to The Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and wanted to share some pictures I took of paintings I’ve loved since my youth.

But I found the act of sharing art to be good for my soul. Curating a weekly art series became for me a source of comfort, peace, and even worship. Creating an Art Wednesday series usually involves interacting with Scripture in some way, or at least thinking through some theological truth. I sense the Lord’s presence and His pleasure as I search, sort, write about, and schedule the art.

I’ve had time to reflect on why I do this, and I thought I’d share some of those thoughts here.

We need to interact with beauty. Life, both individually and collectively, can get dark, and we need light. This can be an ugly world, and we need to be reminded of its wonder and glory. We’re surrounded by the profane, and we need to lash ourselves to the mast of what is sacred.

Not long ago, I was doing some research which involved studying Genesis 2-3, in which the Lord tells Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If he did, God told him, he would die. The serpent came along and told Adam and Eve that God was withholding something from them—the ability to be like God, knowing good and evil. This fruit, the serpent said, would open their eyes. They didn’t want to go through life blind to reality, did they?

So they ate. Both of them. And their eyes were open to good and evil.

There are a million profoundly deep theological pools a person can dive into from the platform of this passage of Scripture. I want to highlight one. It is hard on the human heart to know as much as we do about evil—the evil in this world and the evil in us. Because of God’s grace, we only see it in part, as through a glass darkly. For this I am grateful. But still, we see more than we’re made to.

I know that for me, the unrestricted access I have to everything that is wrong with the world can be a light so blinding that I lose the ability to see, or the capacity to empathize well, with the real and present struggles and sorrows of those in my own community.

Russ Ramsey

These are unprecedented times. Anyone who uses social media or is connected to the internet has access to information that is free, immediate, and global. We see a steady stream of all sorts of evil, suffering, and catastrophe in the world. We know more than we ought to know about celebrity marriages and affairs. We have access to stories and hot takes about disgraced clergy and prospering politicians, natural disasters and deliberately crafted genocides, cases of abuse and miscarriages of justice.

I want to be careful here, because much good comes from living in an information age. People have done amazing things by using technology to push back against the darkness of social injustice. I am thankful for how technology gives a voice to the defenseless, how abuse victims are able to share their stories and find solidarity with others, how funds are quickly gathered for people in need, and all the other ways evil deeds done in secret are exposed to the light because of technology.

With that said, here’s my question. Have you ever wondered if we are built to handle this much knowledge of evil? What effect is this having on the human heart? I know that for me, the unrestricted access I have to everything that is wrong with the world can be a light so blinding that I lose the ability to see, or the capacity to empathize well, with the real and present struggles and sorrows of those in my own community. I don’t want to become a blind and numb media consumer with a three second attention span because my mind and eyes are continually feasting on a diet of evil, cynicism, scandal, and hot takes. And some days, that’s exactly what I am.

I started Art Wednesday to introduce beauty into the media stream. I need to be online. My work, family, and life are such that going off the grid is not an option. I need to learn how to live with it and in it. Today, the knowledge of evil is less like a tree and more like a stream, and everyone I know is in the stream. We are surrounded by it, and, to borrow a term from my friend David Dark, we’re soaking in it. In other words, we’re all affected by it.

With Art Wednesday, I’m trying to spend time with what is good, and share that knowledge with others. In Confessions, Augustine wrote, “I have learnt to love you late, Beauty at once so ancient and so new! I have learnt to love you late! You were within me, and I was in the world outside myself.” Art Wednesday is an exercise in learning to love beauty. It is an exercise in cultivating an inner hunger for beauty, rather than spending our lives living in the world outside ourselves.

It is never too late to learn to love beauty. If you want a dose of weekly beauty to show up in your social media feeds, feel free to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Or maybe you can bring art into your own personal circles of influence. I certainly don’t own the rights to sharing beautiful images and thoughts on social media (or to #ArtWednesday, for that matter), and nothing would please me more than to see others take up the habit of sharing what is true, beautiful, and good in their own way.

As of now, I plan to post 52 consecutive Art Wednesdays, one year’s worth, and then reevaluate. I’m over halfway there, and I find that creating each week’s series of posts continues to be a source of joy and worship. I didn’t start doing this to build a following or sell a book (as of now, I have nothing of the sort in the works.) I do it because I like it. It is truly a labor of love. To all of you who follow along, thank you. Every week I get to show and talk about art and beauty with my friends.

And this, I know, is very good.

Russ Ramsey is the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church Cool Springs in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and four children. He grew up in the fields of Indiana and studied at Taylor University and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv, ThM). Russ is the author of the Retelling the Story Series (IVP, 2018) and Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017).


4 Comments

  1. gllen

    Hey Russ,

    Thanks for this sharing of the purposes “behind the scenes” in your weekly posts. It is full of encouragement and refreshing insight.

    I especially like your little nudge for us to do something within our immediate communities. So many these days are limping along and would be refreshed with what we might have to give of our creative/artistic interests.

    I do this a bit with friends of mine by email – sporadically sharing photos i have taken or discovered, as well as poetry, or great blog posts – simply as a way to spark their eyes and ears open to things that have some element of wonder, beauty, and curiosity in them.

    This past Sunday a piece of damp tree bark with yellow-ochre lichens on it caught my eye, as it lay on the city side-streets, and called my name. I just had to pick it up.

    This was the spark for an hour or so wander down those streets with my cellphone camera ready and my attention opening up for colour. Colour. Colour.

    The idea popped into my mind to find & capture photos of the visible spectrum – ROYGBIV. (Red. Orange, Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet).

    It was a very stimulating wander, resulting in some really interesting images, and I shared the results with friends by email.

    Just a little thing in some ways – but a good, good thing to be sure.

    And it certainly recharged my batteries in the departments of gratitude and delight!

     

  2. Jaclyn

    This is nearly the exact same thing that I am doing, for the same reasons. I’m currently practicing using my ancient Pinterest board. Eventually I want to start a website similar to Adam4d’s Christian Daily Reporter, but filled with only current stories about good things; my working title is “mostly good news.” I will definitely take up the #ArtWednesday hashtag. Thanks for sharing, Russ, and I hope you continue to enjoy your time with God while curating art.

  3. K. Rose

    @krose

    What a wonderful idea! I’ve seen a Facebook “challenge” float around wherein people post art to their Timelines for a few days and then challenge others to do so, but this level of intent and organization is refreshing. I’m inspired to plan & execute a version of this myself on my own social media. You’re right, we absolutely need to inject this light the goodness into what can be the darkness of the social media stream….or deluge…or ocean.

  4. Thomas Leonard

    @tleonard

    Thanks for this Russ. I added you on FB; looking forward to your posts!

    I appreciate your thought that the solution isn’t to back out, a la the “Benedict Option” but to redeem and be signposts to new creation. In running counter to the current, you are working against the trend that more is better. Reminds me of this quote from the guy who invented such a simple device (a pocket to hold your smartphone) it seems ludicrous…and yet telling of where we are:

    “If you think of this phone as the ultimate expression of technological efficiency where things are easier, cheaper, faster all the time, I think it comes down to what are the limits of a purely efficiency-driven mode of life? What people really enjoy has nothing to do with efficiency. You can play a melody faster, but that doesn’t make sense. What does it mean to be more efficient in our social interactions? Is that something we want? Does that make sense at all?”

    Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2018/02/05/this-millennial-discovered-a-surprisingly-simple-solution-to-smartphone-addiction-schools-love-it/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.4a962aa2c1ea

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