Connecting with the Art – Identity
Challenging Questions 7 Week Sermon Series, October 3rd – November 14th, 2021
Spend some quiet time looking at Identity, reflecting on the colors, shapes, and movements of the image.
- What might this image say about God and/or the created world?
- Reflect on the title, given by the artist. If you could give your own title to the piece, what would it be?
- Review the sermon titles for the Challenging Question and consider where you see these themes reflected in the artwork.Challenging Questions: What Must I Do? / Who Has the Wisdom? / What Do We See? / How Do We Love? / How Then Do We Give? / What Lasts?
- What stories are these art images telling about God’s world?
Respond to the Art with Creativity: use art supplies to write a prayer or a poem, or to create a drawing or painting that capture your feelings or insights about the art.
Ben Shahn (1898–1969) was a Lithuanian-born artist who immigrated to the USA in 1906. Shahn was concerned about justice, social issues, and pointing out flaws in the status quo.
Identity was one of Shahn’s late works, created at the time of student protests against the war in Vietnam, which he also opposed, and not long before his death. The image shows five sets of hands intertwined with thin arms reaching upward. Are these hands wringing in anguish? Are they arms raised in a community working together for justice by making their voices (feelings) heard?
Above the hands is a quotation that asks how shall individuals care both for the self and the collective? Is caring for the collective also caring for self? Is it possible and imperative to do both? The quotation also asks about timing – if we do not speak up for justice now, will it ever happen? When?
His lithographic and design sense (limited contrasting colors, a mixture of text and image, simplified repetitive shapes) help this image to be compelling, edgy, strong, and memorable.
The human search for identity, meaning, or purpose is as old as time – an old question that can be asked again and again, “Why are we here?” or “If we are here, then, how shall we live?” Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” (In other words, “What is my identity to you?”) Jesus was all about the love of God, love of self, love of neighbor, and authenticity and questioning of motives.
Midweek Pause for Mountain Sunday, September 2021
Listen to ‘A Vision of the Future’ based on Isaiah 65:17-25. Afterwards, take some to time to write or draw your response to all life knowing God’s love.
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