Monday, November 16, 2009

The Jelly's in the Fridge

This past week in my Doctrine and Covenants class, I was able to hear a lecture from Rita Wright about the new exhibit at BYU’s Museum of Art—“Types and Shadows.” During the next class period, we were able to actually go to the museum and discuss a few of the works in the exhibit.

I had an interesting experience, because I went to the exhibit on my own time the week before, and I formed my first impression about many of the works, but then I was able to go again and hear the perspectives of Rita and my classmates. There were a couple pieces that I completely discounted and disliked the first time I saw the exhibit. However, my second time through, I came away with different insights. I found the whole experience of pondering art very similar to what happens when I ponder the scriptures.

When I went on my own time, I saw Bennion’s painting called “Daily Bread.” It depicts a middle-aged looking woman wearing an apron and cradling bread in it. She looks very ordinary. She stands in stark contrast to the religious figures of the works surrounding her in the exhibit. At first, I hated the picture. I saw it, saw how illogical it seemed within the religious mindset I had come to the exhibit with, and I moved on without trying to interpret its meaning.

The second time I saw it, however, I knew it was in this exhibit for a reason, so I forced myself to draw out its religious meaning. To me, her apron is the most prominent feature of the painting. The apron can mean a lot of things; it can represent holy garments, earthly roles and purposes, caretaker duties, and more. The message I saw most clearly was that this woman, whoever she is, has a role, a purpose. I can see that she has responsibility for something—perhaps a family. The loaf of bread can communicate many messages as well. Perhaps this woman is a provider. She is the one responsible for feeding her children, her neighbors, her fellow man. But then, the bread could also cast the woman in a creator role. Like Eve, she could be a creator of children—a woman with stewardship over God’s people.

After coming to these realizations, and understanding the spiritual implications of the painting, the aspect of the painting that most perplexed me was the woman’s expression. It is not a happy one. She looks tired, weary, almost apathetic. She looks as if she’s put her best effort into that bread, but now she wants me to take it, and she never wants to think about that loaf of bread again. If I was right and this woman had such important provider and creator duties in her earthly life, why would the painter portray her with this kind of attitude? What sort of spiritual message does that teach us? My immediate thought was—aren’t we to do all things cheerfully? Aren’t we to have joy as we serve our Father in Heaven and accomplish our purposes on earth? But my next thought was that I don’t always do what I need to do with a smile on my face and a heart full of love and gratitude. Sometimes I grow weary. Sometimes I do things because yes, I have faith that in the end I will be rewarded, but in the moment I’m doing it, I’m just tired.

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