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Shelly Metz

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How Art And Spirituality Become One

Posted: 02/04/10 02:33 PM ET

I am an artist. I have always been one. During my teenage years, I would sit with my artist friends and we'd have long and grandiose discussions about "What is art?" Of course, at that age, you don't even know what you don't know yet. The discussion wrangled the question around for hours with no definitive answers.

Now I am still an artist. An adult artist, but still an artist. Because I have grown as an artist and am more in-tune and comfortable with my artistic, spiritual side, the questions I ask myself and those close to me seem to be of an even more spiritual nature. Art has helped me to be okay with asking these questions. Is there a god? Why are we here? What is our purpose? Is there a meaning to our lives? How do we live in peace? Is there life after life? I've come to realize that religion is man's creation, but the quest for spirituality is the eternal search for a supreme being, the divine and the connection that binds all living beings.

Currently, I am owner and gallery director of Little Star Gallery in Golden, Colorado. While my developing spirituality and artistic mind have become a major part of my work, there is still a big chasm between the philosophy of art and the business of selling art. Sometimes it can be easy for the business side to interfere with the philosophy and beauty of art, but that is something I strive to keep separate. From my vantage point, I see the perspective of the gallery, the artist and the collector. I see a lot of art -- some good, some bad and some with an extra quality. It is that extra quality that makes one stop and ponder.

I hear myself repeating some of the questions raised in my youth. Is this art? Why is this good? How could it be technically not good but still drawing me in? Then the adult voice chimes in registering the colors, shapes and values while grabbing onto something unseen, something more. That is art. True art can take a number of forms, but the question you need to ask is this: "Does it do something to me? Does it stir my soul?"

As an artist, my best work comes from the deepest place inside of me which fulfills the need to create. The medium almost becomes secondary to the creation. In sports they call it "being in the zone." Sometimes the process is exhilarating, yet other times every cell is poured into the creation, leaving the artist spent. When creating art from that spiritual perspective, there is no critique or criticism -- only the process, the art and the feeling.

I am starting to see that there are some answers and possibly even more questions being presented to artists through art. On the surface, we can look at the use of universal symbols and shapes. Some artists I know write words, affirmations and even prayers on the canvas and paint over the words. Many others put great intention into their work. It is here that I see a merging and melding of my questions on art and spirit. Not all art is spiritual and not everything spiritual is art, but somehow I feel I'm getting closer to the knowing.

There are shapes from sacred geometry and symbols so ancient that their meanings resonate in our very being even if our consciousness has no awareness. Colors vibrate to different frequencies, bringing the viewer to desired states. I have seen people calm down while viewing certain pieces and conversely seen them grow agitated viewing others. Is this art? Is this something more?

In Native cultures, objects were decorated with the symbols of their tradition. Even the most mundane utensil would be beautifully embellished so it became a work of art. The stones that they used had aesthetic and spiritual meaning. Turquoise was excellent protection, promoted healing and strengthened already inherent healing abilities. Amber taught strength that could help you truly understand life. The art and spirituality in the native traditions were intertwined so they became one. Conversely, many religions tried to portray their dogma and biblical stories through the use of art. Look at the works of Michelangelo, DaVinci and many others. To this day, we try to see beyond the obvious for clues as to the meanings and secrets contained in the art. If there's nothing more than meets the eye, then what's the point?

Are the answers in the art or the search for spirit? As a society, have we all been spinning so fast that we've lost our orbits? Is the quest for the soul being answered by the quest to create? Haven't the artists and poets of all generations tried to answer these questions?

Open up to art and the possibilities the experience presents. What is art and spirituality? Are they connected? The answer lies with each of us.