McEntyre Discusses Spirituality in Art


    By Tiffany Meredith

    Reflecting on different art can lead to spiritual insights and new vision, said Marilyn McEntyre, a professor of English from Westmont College.

    “What I want to do with the time we have is to share with you what has been for me a spiritual journey and an ongoing exercise in revision – that is learning to see again, and to see differently,” she said at Tuesday”s devotional.

    Art is an invitation to stillness, reflection and contemplation, said McEntyre.

    “Every work of art – every poem, every statue, every painting is an invitation that eventually says, ”look this way, consider things in this light, and you will see things that you have never seen before,”” said McEntyre.

    McEntyre realized the influence art has in spiritual life while viewing Vermeer”s, “The Lacemaker,” which portrays a young girl with brown curls in a bright yellow dress intensely focused on her sewing.

    “I became aware of how the process of reflecting on a painting like this could bring me to terms with myself,” she said. “Noticing what I noticed, and noticing what I felt was a very rich moment of reflection because the painting helped me to a kind of stillness and awareness that is somewhat counter-cultural.”

    McEntyre discussed the tie between art and spirituality, reading her own poetry about insights she gained from each specific piece of art she featured.

    “I believe that poetry and prayer are closely related, as are poetry and visual art,” she said. “Not all poetry is prayer, to be sure. Not all art is religious. But it seems to me that the activity of dwelling on the intent…prepares us for the activity we engage in when we still the inner voices and come to prayer.”

    To gain new insight while viewing artwork, one should ask, “what does the work invite you to do?” “what does the work require you to do?” and “what does it not let you do?” McEntyre said.

    Another painting she shared, “The View of Delft,” showed a beautiful landscape of boats and houses reflecting in the water, and a blue sky dominated by puffy clouds. She pointed out how the sky takes about two-thirds of the canvass space.

    “The sky is so important in the Dutch imagination,” McEntyre said. “And it seems to me that the way the sky keeps our eye turning upward really is a spiritual signifier.”

    Van Gogh”s art also has spiritual undertones that can be seen in his paintings, she said.

    “I find that his paintings – not only his portraits, but his landscaping – are a really shocking evocation of the presence of light and I think [of] the presence of the spirit that moves on the wind – the spirit that is among us,” McEntyre said.

    McEntyre showed the famous “Starry Night,” by Vincent Van Gogh, saying she finds it a moving depiction of the heavens. She challenged students to enjoy art to be lead to a more spiritual sphere.

    “I do commend these paintings to you and many others as a legacy to reclaim and as a pathway that I hope if we are very attentive, that we will be led to prayer,” she said.

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