In an attempt to make my family more “cultured” I recently purchased an annual membership to the local art museum (Joslyn). Two months passed, and though I had great intentions of making a visit, it did not happen. I blamed it on the 2-year-old. She would make the trip to an art museum disastrous!
The museum is open late on Thursday nights. Last week, the schedule was miraculously empty on Thursday and I had the brilliant idea to take our 6-year-old to the art museum; just me and him. I assumed that we would go, I’d drag him through the museum and he would politely oblige my desire to look at paintings; and then he would complain that he was bored and we’d go home. I began to resign myself to the fact that our membership fee this year would be more of a donation than something we’d actually utilize.
But the kid surprised me. He absolutely loved it! He wanted to know the names of each piece of artwork, how old they were; we’d pick our favorites and discuss what a painting was trying to say. I have zero knowledge of art, so my responses were often, ‘I don’t know what that means. What do you think?” I literally had to drag him out of the museum at 8:00 pm when the place closed!
When we were done, I asked him which painting was his favorite. I was expecting him to recall one of the lovely landscape portraits of the American west, or one of the paintings with beautiful imagery of Mary and the baby Jesus, or perhaps the painting we both giggled at, “Venus at her Toilette,” where you can see part of a woman’s butt. (Because what else can you do with your 6-year-old son in front of a painting of a woman’s butt except to giggle.)
No – amongst the many paintings we saw that evening, my son claimed his favorite was an 1833 painting by a French artist, Edouard Cibot, titled “Fallen Angels.”
The painting has a dark background, angels with bloodied wings, snakes and a single apple – I suppose to remind us of original sin. As the description states, the painting celebrates the “dark side.” Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that my son – who adores anything Star Wars – would like a painting about the “dark side.”
But the mom instinct in me was aghast. My sweet, innocent, young son – why would he like this painting?!? Over the last week I continued to prod – can you explain why you like it? Tell me something that will make me believe you want to seek out the beauty instead of the darkness!
I actually took 10 minutes during my lunch break, drove to this museum, and sat and stared at the painting, hoping to figure out what made him like it so much. This actually brought me to a sad place, and I found myself sitting there with the same brooding expression that the angels show.
I don’t think I will find the solution that I want; there may be no “beautiful” reason for why my son likes this dark painting. Our human world is full of sin and darkness, and we are – I think often quite naturally – drawn to the darkness.
But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. Matthew 15:18-19
Darkness and sin can bring pleasure, albeit short-lived. Though natural tendencies and instant gratification might draw us towards the dark side, true joy resides in the love and grace of God. Paul writes to the Romans:
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 7:21-25(a)
Darkness exists – in this world and in our hearts. And it will continue to seek us out – to suck the joy out of our souls and leave us sitting on a bench in an art museum feeling sad and confused. But God is bigger than the darkness, and God offers peace, joy, everlasting light. So we continually work to push aside the darkness and rest secure in the light of God!