The peculiar grace of a Shaker chair is due to the fact that it was made by someone capable of believing that an angel might come and sit on it. — Thomas Merton
“The artist had seven colors: blue, white, ochre, hematite (dark red), hematite mixed with calcium carbonate (lighter red), and two grades of charcoal black.
“What could anyone accomplish with such a primitive tool? These crummy colors would embarrass any self-respecting kindergarten class today.
“These artists lacked what we would consider the most fundamental tools necessary for making a decent picture– for example, electric light for painting the walls of a dark, underground tomb– yet they created works of astonishing beauty that still give us chills thousands of years later:
“How many works of art created in this century will evoke a similar response in 3,000 years?
“The first two lessons from the tiny paint box are obvious:
“1.) Art does not “progress” the way other human enterprises do; an ancient drawing on a prehistoric cave wall or a painting on an Egyptian sarcophagus may be even more beautiful and sensitive than a work of art created yesterday.
“2.) Fancy and expensive tools don’t necessarily result in a better work of art; a drawing scratched on a prison wall with a bed spring may be artistically superior to the latest Pixar high tech multi-million dollar extravaganza.
“3.) the power latent in a tiny paint box can be unleashed in part by the beliefs of the painter.
“In an age of faith, when true believers devote their talents to honoring their gods (or their pharaohs, or their one true love) that higher purpose sometimes seems to imbue their art with larger and more important qualities. Today’s artists who are motivated by the press reviews of their next gallery openings or their copyright contract or their royalty fees may produce brilliant, complex material, often dazzling in its presentation, often clever or snarky in its tone. But that work often seems thinner and more transitory than the work of artists who, working with the humblest tools, are motivated by fear and dread of their gods…
“…or by the soul flying from our body at the hour of our fate.
More at Painting for the Angels