Walking up the steps, I could hear the sounds of beeping horns. The horns accompanied squealing tires, chirping birds, and the sound of singing tourists wide eyed with anticipation. After all, we were in New York City. The large, intricate columns of the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) loomed before us, giving a foretaste of the artistic beauty and wonder that we were about to absorb within the museum’s walls. This beige fortress was austere and bland in comparison to the rich and wonderful world of vibrancy and color that we were about to enjoy.
My name is Kristin Bollier, and I am from small town Leo, Indiana. Gordon College is unique and so very different from the atmosphere that I grew up in while living in the rural Mid West; the simple fact that students have quick access to Boston and moderately easy accessibility to New York opens up a new realm of culture unique to urban life. Large cities, people, art and culture have always interested me, so of course I jumped at the chance to take a trip with the Art Department to visit art museums in New York City. I am currently a Communications major and an Art and Biblical Studies double minor. When I saw that Gordon needed a couple of students to take pictures and compile a photo journal of their experiences for the web site, I was thrilled to be able to put it together; my main interests are writing and technical art (like design and photography), so to be able to utilize both of my passions in such a wonderful setting like New York was quite a blessing indeed.
Our day started off bright and early, 6:00 a.m. to be exact. Although I was tired and wanted to still be wrapped up in my sheets, I was thrilled to be on a bus heading to New York. As I sat and watched the sun rise, I recapped the last time I went to New York: I remember falling in love with the sights and sounds and smells and all of the wonderful busy-ness around me. This current NYC trip was even more of a joy because, just a couple of days before, I bought a new camera; I was more than excited for my first photo shoot to be of the Big Apple and of world renowned art work. Soon, we took off. The journey to the city included dozing off, waking up to the orange sun warming my face, crossing through Connecticut (a state that I have never been to or through before), munching on Kashi cereal, and fiddling around with the f-stop and aperture of my new Canon.
And without any warning, we were there. Our bus pulled right up to the MET, and I danced off of the bus with my camera in tow. I couldn’t help but think about how much of a rookie photographer I was, and that I was going to practice my newly learned skills on the likes of Picasso and on dazzling architecture. The first thing I noticed was the amount of people and the hard lines and angles created by the skyscrapers; my eyes went straight for the different geometrical shapes of the buildings and the different values of rich brown. I snapped my first pictures.
Walking up the stairs and through the doors of the museum, the first thing I saw were high ceilings and the golden light the tinted windows gave off. Not being an art museum aficionado and not being accustomed to the hobby of art education, I smiled that this building was veiled with stereotypical ambient light and filled with cosmopolitan New Yorkers looking to broaden their horizons. After my bag was searched and my backpack and coat were checked in, I began to realize as I approached the entrance to the first exhibit that I was as equally excited as the New Yorkers to view the art work; my thoughts of the well-educated, artsy, culturally versed city-goer soon melted away as I realized that the girl from rural, corn growing, cow milking Indiana could enjoy the beauty of an art museum just as much as any sophisticated New Yorker.
As I was snapping pictures of the Roman artwork exhibit, I heard a sweet, yet scholarly voice echoing through the corridor. I peered around the corner and saw that a young woman was giving an art education talk to children and their parents. The children were sitting on the ground with coloring utensils, drawing whatever their hands bid them create. I once again laughed at the difference between these children and myself. My parents weren’t at all concerned with teaching me about the rich and diverse facets of art; to picture myself as a toddler sitting in an art museum, coloring away on the floor, listening about the ways of the ancient Romans with my parents alongside is a funny image indeed. Although my parents didn’t take me to art museums like the MET, they couldn’t keep me from creating on my own; for me to sit in the front porch with my markers and imagination was an art museum enough for me.
I think the thing that struck me the most as I was weaving through the African exhibit, the European painting exhibit, the modern art exhibit, and the Egyptian exhibit was that every culture, every society that ever was has tried to express themselves artistically in some way. Every time I see artwork by an extremely talented artist, I always fight the temptation that clearly I could never measure up and that I need to throw everything to the wind and choose a different passion to pursue. But, as I looked at all of the different sorts of colors and patterns and textures and personalities splattered on the walls, I realized that every person is capable of creating art. I realized that to be an artist is to simply be yourself, but to be yourself with metal, with parchment, with paint, with thread, with typography, with any medium you could ever think or dream of using. As I stood in the museum, all I could hear were the voices of the artists screaming from their work; what were they trying to say? Their artistry is like a window into their soul. I found that I could learn a lot about the artist by simply trying to listen to their voices. How does this apply to me? What an awesome privilege it would be to have the opportunity to show someone your soul and for them to look inside and see your raw humanity but most importantly Jesus. I think this is what makes me want to be a Christian artist most, and I was reminded of that while at the MET.
Soon, my stomach was growling, and I realized that it was time for lunch. We had clearly lost track of time viewing painting after painting and sculpture after sculpture. While eating, I was chatting with my friend about all sorts of things, but one comment she made really stood out to me. My friend is a Youth ministry and Art major and I never actually asked her what she planned on doing with such a unique and interesting combination; I specifically asked her what she was going to do career-wise with her art interests and she said, “Well, probably nothing.” Her bluntness at first kind of shocked me, but then I realized that what she was really saying was that she is pursuing art simply for the sake of pursuing art. While having the freedom in college to follow her passions, she was led to art and youth ministry! I feel like ever since high school I have always thought that schoolwork and “fun” should be very separate entities; I tended to take the classes that I would do best in because, heaven forbid, if I didn’t get all A’s, I wouldn’t get into a good college and never get a good job and be a complete failure at life. My friend reminded me that in this life, we should pursue our passions, not being afraid of missing the mark because the Lord has everything under control. If I want to be an art and youth ministry major so be it! I don’t want to be chained down by my fears.
As the day neared it’s end, I decided that, by far, my most favorite collection was the Egyptian exhibit. I have always been so fascinated by mummies and sphinxes and pharaohs and pyramids. I love trying to think about what it would be like to live back during this time, to wear clothing of gold and to eat the rich vegetation from the flooding of the Nile. I think the main thing that has always entranced me is the Egyptian obsession with afterlife preservation. While taking art history, I learned about the great lengths the Egyptians went to prepare for death; one thing that really interested me was the fact that pharaohs were buried with jewels and gems and food and preservations and clothing and anything else that could possibly be needed to prepare the deceased for the afterlife.
Now, in order to prove my point and to make sense about my thoughts of the Egyptians, we need to flashback to lunchtime. The women sitting next to us were having a deep conservation about the pros and cons of converting to Judaism. One woman, in the throes of converting, was weighing if becoming a Jew would be worth her time and energy; her friend was encouraging her that she should do it. Why not? She shouldn’t care what her boyfriend thought! I couldn’t help but parallel their conversation to that of a young child deciding if they wanted to play tee ball or take up ballet; it seemed like the ambivalent woman simply wanted something to believe in, to cling on to, almost treating Judaism like a hobby.
The Egyptian exhibit and this undecided women reminded me that every single person wants something to believe in. Every one is searching, every one is clinging on to something. But what will that thing be? What am I holding on to and is it something worth “my time and energy”? May we all ask ourselves that same question and be able to answer yes without hesitation.
After 5:00 p.m., I was ready for some fresh air. Some friends and I decided to find the nearest Starbucks and take in the delights of New York in the winter. The day was beautiful, a moderate temperature with sunny skies. We walked along Central Park, and I snapped photos about every 20 seconds of everything from paintings to puppies. At the end of the day, I felt inspired and challenged. In New York City, a city full of cement, metal, rust, and a variety of gray and brown buildings, beauty sprouted in various places: beauty in the MET, beauty in the hearts of the people attending, beauty in the surrounding creation. After this memorable day at the MET, I was reminded of a Jars of Clay song that I hope will always be my prayer:
“Art In Me”--Jars of Clay
Images on the sidewalk speak of dream's descent
Washed away by storms to graves of cynical lament
Dirty canvases to call my own
Protest limericks carved by the old pay phone
In your picture book I'm trying hard to see
Turning endless pages of this tragedy
Sculpting every move you compose a symphony
And you plead to everyone, "See the art in me."
Broken stained-glass windows, the fragments ramble on
Tales of broken souls, an eternity's been won
As critics scorn the thoughts and works of mortal man
My eyes are drawn to you in awe once again
In your picture book I'm trying hard to see
Turning endless pages of this tragedy
Sculpting every move, you compose a symphony
And you plead to everyone, "see the art in me."