Why Not be Totally Changed into Fire?

Why Not be Totally Changed into Fire?

Reflections on JUSTart from Lara Scott

Blog_20130723_LaraScottTo prepare for my presentation at the CIVA conference, I set up lunches and dinners with several friends. Each is a person I like talking with about life — including art, justice, beauty, love, politics. A couple are Christians, one is a Modern Orthodox Jew, one is agnostic. One is a writer, one oversees paintmaking where I work,
one is studying to be a lawyer. All of them carry worlds inside them, and have some patience with my hunger to know their worlds, and some interest in mine.

In the previous post, Cecilia González-Andrieu says, “Because artists are just who I have been arguing they are – people who engage the world creatively with abandon and abundance. I need to thank (profusely) the artists involved in the making of the posters, I am so grateful to know that what I said made sense to you; it means I have understood you.”

Blog_20130723_LaraScott3When I returned to Central New York, I brought a poster for each of my friend/advisers because they had been so helpful, had prepared me so well. They were all very pleased to receive them. They were glad to have me back, and to hear about the trip, and the people I met and all the things I heard and saw.

I always want to be understood. I fell in love last year; the longer it lasts, the more sticky it gets. James Baldwin says that “love is a battle, love is a war. Love is a growing up.” This man is an answer to prayer. I argue with God about it, for a variety of reasons, but I thank God too. It is hard to live with abandon and abundance and open up your inside worlds. It is hard to risk failure, loss, and heartbreak. God tricks us into love with beauty — Riva Lehrer’s words at the conference have settled in my mind — what she shared about
being seen by someone else, the gift and vulnerability of that — seeing our own informed, attentive, unfolding beauty reflected in our beloved’s eyes. Sometimes I feel like God tricks us into love by showing us our own beauty. Do we dare believe it, no matter what happens?

Blog_20130723_LaraScott2I digress. Or, I do not.

Christians should live with abandon because we know abundance, because we know that God is love, and spirit, and truth — reality itself. I’ve been away from conferences, away from Christian colleges and gatherings of artists like this one. It refreshed me more than I ever expected.

I think artists live with abandon because we have to.

One of the great pleasures of the conference for me was seeing my first department chair, Steve Heilmer. Greenville College was the first Christian college I’d ever taught at, ever been at. He met me as a freshly minted MFA, a Yankee crash-landed in the southern reaches of the midwest. I met him before I knew how to teach at all, when I was first living as an artist-professor, with both sides of that hyphen active, new.

To meet him again was unexpectedly wild. It was the touchstone of a fusing I felt at the conference as a whole, a circling of my past and present, a linking of circles and patterns. All the best of learning to be an art professor, to defend and promote my discipline, all the
theology I learned teaching at Christian colleges, and then the struggles and clarity of the last five hard years — taking care of my mom, working in a paint factory, being an artist and just that — past and present circled and met, and all flashed together, a whole.

Blog_20130723_LaraScott4Talking with Steve is always a journey too. I think he thought it was funny, how glad I was to see him. We had some fights when I first got to Greenville. As he said, I was young, and thought I knew everything, just like he did when he started out. The discipline of studio art prospers in his hands. The work, the work, the work. And life too, learning to be a person, in the image of God.

“The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not be totally changed into fire?”

Why not indeed. I talked with several artists, especially several young women, at the conference. They impressed me so much. They know more than I did at their age, and that is reassuring. I was so glad that they sought me out, and shared with me some glimpse of their worlds. They know that they are a little bit lost, and yet they are walking so bravely and wisely. I told them we are all feeling a little bit lost, so don’t be anxious on that account.

I agreed gladly when Kevin Hamilton asked me to present, although, I also needed the money. There’s some justice for you. And mercy. I sold three paintings this month. A friend called me on Sunday and we swam in a small lake. On Saturday I took the subway in Brooklyn, and today I passed a tractor on the road. Do not despise the day of small things.

— Lara Scott


Lara ScottLara Scott is currently based in Hamilton, New York, south of Syracuse and Utica, well north of New York City. Trained initially as a painter, Lara now works regularly in video and collage, and sometimes in oil paint. Her day job is at Golden Artist Colors, in the research and development lab. Her video work can be viewed at vimeo.com/larascott. In 2011, she collaborated wit Kevin Hamilton on a project entitled, “What I Hear You Saying,” published in ASPECT in 2012.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.