Beauty, Whole and Broken

September 26, 2014  •  1 Comment

My exhibition of photographs, "Beauty, Whole and Broken" is on display in Founders Hall, Memphis Theological Seminary through December 10, 2014.  The Artist Statement and a slideshow of the exhibited photographs appear below.



Artist Statement

We should not merely run [our eyes] over [creatures] cursorily, and, so to speak, with a fleeting glance; but we should ponder them at length, turn them over in our minds seriously and faithfully, and recollect them repeatedly."

-John Calvin, Institutes 1.14.21


“Beauty, catch me on your tongue.”

-Andrea Gibson, “Birthday”



Faith is deliciously sensuous. It calls forth from us a long, loving look at the extravagant beauty of the world. Faith brings mindful seeing, a renewed attentiveness to the handiwork of God all around us. In faith, we are invited to attend to things small and large, fragile and  threatening, with patience, delight, and awe. We are summoned to linger over particulars with heightened sensitivity and an expectation of surprise. Faith transfigures our casual seeing into the wonder-filled, wide-eyed gaze of a child. For Calvin, such seeing is an expression of gratitude, and when we fail at it, he judges us of guilty of "criminal apathy."


"Beauty, Whole and Broken" is a collection of photographs that invites us to acquit ourselves of the crime. These photographs celebrate two kinds of beauty. The first is whole beauty -- the beauty of pristine things free of defect and flaw. Such beauty is of things untouched by fallen human hands and free of tragedy, flaw, or brokenness. We see such beauty in the luminous blossoms of the dogwood, in a strand of seaweed floating aimlessly in dark waters, and in a moonrise over granite dells so strange in shape that we might mistake them for an alien world. To taste whole beauty is to taste the original goodness of God and the world and to be reminded that even though ours is but a small place in the world, it is a good place.


But even whole beauty gets broken. Wildfires ravage pristine landscapes. Here is another kind of beauty -- broken beauty. This is an improvised beauty that embraces tragic or flawed elements and transfigures them into something higher. We glimpse such beauty in the one-armed craftsman of hand-made jewelry whose hand holds a clip that echos his prosthesis. We see this beauty in the bliss of a boy riding a mechanical bull whose missing horn imperils the illusion. We see it in the bluesmen whose notes and voices squeeze beauty out of the depths of human suffering and anguish. To taste broken beauty is to taste redemption and to be reminded that God's beauty travels through the tragic rather than around it.


O Divine Beauty, "catch [us] on your tongue."


Susan Stewart(non-registered)
I recently had the great pleasure to see Matt's photographs in person on display at the Memphis Theological Seminary. This slide show will be a way to revisit the photographs and Matt's observations and perceptive remarks about the place and meaning of beauty in our lives and in the wider world that belongs to God.
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