A True Masterpiece

You can also view a video of an earlier version of this speech here.

This speech took 14th place at the nationals competition in Virginia. I would be more than happy to share this speech with any audience, in person, if you desire.

A True Masterpiece

Pulling on his gloves and jacket the elderly gentleman and his wife stepped off their porch and got into their car. The man was a well known art critic, and he and his wife were headed to the local art museum. On his way out of the house however, he had forgotten his glasses. They parked their car and shuffled up the steps to the museum. Once inside, they wandered through the halls arm in arm, occasionally commenting on particular works that caught their interests. The elderly gentleman was at an utter loss without his glasses, and he could not tell top from bottom, but not wanting to disclose this to his wife, he boldly stepped up to the nearest portrait and began his examination. “The artist who did this work did not pick an appealing subject to paint on, the picture he chose to replicate is rather drab, and the face is not attractive and does not appear to have much quality…” he was about to continue with his lecture when his wife took him by the arm and whispered in his ear. “Darling, you are looking at a mirror.”

What is a true masterpiece? Without his glasses the elderly gentleman couldn’t tell. We may laugh at this incident, but really, are we in the same fix? That is what I want to look at today, Art as we see it, Art as we live it. Through this we will determine what a true masterpiece is, and how we can be one also. First, I will set a definition for art that will serve as our glasses for evaluating art as we see it.

What is the definition of art? The definition that I agree with most is one I learned from Jeff Baldwin at Worldview Academy this past October. It states that Art is skilled human creativity that reflects God’s truth and God’s beauty – skilled human creativity that reflects God’s truth and God’s beauty. I like this definition because it looks at art from a Christian perspective. Just like the old art critic without his glasses, how can we determine what art is without a good pair of glasses ourselves? This definition should be our glasses. I realize that this definition can be subjective, so let’s squeeze some of these words a little and see what we get. What is skilled?

My generation tends to use it flippantly. To us, tripping over a flat surface takes skill, and we make sure to let each other know, “dude, that was skilled.” But honestly, every day we are in the master’s workshop and we can see his works which are skillfully and wonderfully made. We see skill in creation, and we strive to replicate it, like a child who copies his parents. Details, singularity, perfection. Nothing in God’s creation is naturally sloppy. It is all perfect and beautifully made. That is where we find skill.

Now let us look at art as we see it, and we will decide whether or not it fits our definition. According to an article in USA Today, there was a piece of art that sold for $ 1700 dollars. It was abstract, and it was painted by a dog named Sam. His owner says, “Sam is a regular renaissance dog and his abstract paintings are all the rage with the hip New York galleries.” (Godlasky, NP). Is this art? Say it with me, No. First of all that is not human creativity, and it was not skilled. A dog could have done it! Some abstract art may be creative, but it doesn’t portray God’s order. It also doesn’t reflect God’s truth and God’s beauty. That painting portrayed random creation, a sloppy and uncontrolled construction that showed no beauty. This in no way portrays God’s truth, because God is not random. He is not sloppy and uncontrolled. He made the universe in such a way that it works like a clock, and universes aren’t something you can just throw together and leave be.

What would we consider a good example of a true masterpiece? How about the Sistine Chapel? This Masterpiece took four years to complete, in challenging circumstances. But when Michael Angelo was finished, it became the most renowned piece of art, next to the Mona Lisa. People are inspired when they look at it. That is Art how we see it, now let’s look at Art as we live it.

When somebody looks at your life will they be inspired? Will they see a masterpiece? Or will they see abstract art, something a dog could have done. What we spend our time and money on, is what determines this. Why? Because what we take in, affects what we send out. Garbage in, garbage out.

We can live our lives being amused by the movies we watch, the books we read, the art we see, the music we listen to. We tend to settle for whatever entertains us, not the masterpieces and therefore absorb the message that these mediums present us. When we do this we are allowing their propaganda to take a place in us.

As a little kid, I loved the movie Lion King, I was completely oblivious to the fact that it was teaching me a message, as I sat there being amused. Now that I am older, I can see the New Age theology it promoted “the

circle of life…” How about a more recent example? This movie is immensely popular, has awesome graphics, and a very questionable message- Avatar. This is an excellent example of how dangerous movies can be. The amazing graphics of this movie carry away the audience while several humanist messages are portrayed as just another way of life… that is okay. They make it seem so innocent. After all, they end up living happily ever after. Don’t they?  It desensitizes us. We take in this garbage and we slowly begin to believe it, or we become apathetic towards the truth. It desensitizes us. That is why we should only dwell on the masterpieces. Or as Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” (Blue Letter Bible, Phil. 4:8 NIV)

Do any of you know what amused means? Here is a original way to look at it. When we dissect it, we find that the Latin prefix “a” means not. Muse means “think”, put the two together and you get amused which literally means… not thinking. Should we ever be “not thinking?” Say it with me… No. This brings us back to our original point, what we take in determines what we send out. Have any of you ever heard of Ted Bundy? A young, intelligent, educated, man began with little bits of pornography that he allowed to take a place in him. This grew. He took in more and more garbage, till finally it controlled his life. Ted Bundy is certainly remembered… He is a serial murderer, who claimed around 36 lives, among other things. He wasn’t born one, it was a slow fade. It was just a picture. This is why this is important to us. Not only do we need make sure that the movies we watch are truthful, but we also need to filter the books we read, and the art we view. Because they also propose a message, which we will accept depending on how much we liked the piece.

This leads us to the ultimate reason of why we should only devote our time to the true masterpieces. We should take Philippians 4:8 very seriously. What we dwell on is either the garbage or the good that we take in. Not only should we do this because what we take in determines what we send out, but also because our lives are supposed to be masterpieces. Do you want to inspire awe or a yawn?Now you know what a true masterpiece is. I have given you a definition to work by, skilled human creativity that reflects God’s Truth and God’s beauty. We squeezed that definition a little and found out what is skillful, and what reflects God’s truth and God’s beauty, using the example of abstract art, and Sam. That was Art as we see it. Finally we looked at Art as we live it, and why it is important for us to only accept the true masterpieces.

Before I finish, I want to tell you one last thing; the theme or content in all of my points is that our lives can be masterpieces, depending on how we live them. This Christmas, we had the week off and our cousin came over to play with us. We spent the whole week on a computer game called age of Empires, it was just a game. It dominated our conversation and our time, because it was fun, and I was… amused. Christmas morning came, and we scrambled out of our beds to open presents. Mom handed them out, then just stood back and watched. Stood back and watched. Mom did not get anything for Christmas, because I was to busy being amused to think of getting her something, I was not thinking. Considering the role she plays in our family that should have never happened. But I was amused. This is why I did this speech. Life is precious and our time is sweet, we only have one picture to paint and we need to paint it well. What we allow to take our time will determine how we live. We have to be careful, because sometimes all it takes is a picture… to get us started on a nightmare. Now you have your glasses, and you know what a true masterpiece is. What kind of picture are you painting?

Source Cited Page

Blue Letter Bible. “Paul’s Epistle – Philippians 4 – (NIV – New International Version).” Blue Letter Bible. 1996- 2010. 24 Jan 2010. < http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Phl&c=4&t=NIV >

Godlasky, Anne. “Paintings by Dog sell for $ 1,700.” USA TODAY Oct. 19, 2009: NP. Paw Print Post. Web.

Jan. 21, 2010. <http://content.usatoday.com/communities/pawprintpost/post/2009/10/paintings-by-dog- sell-for-1700/1>

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If you really want to know...;) Nathan is a 20 year old home school graduate, Eagle Scout, Christ follower, pro lifer, College Kid, Speech and Debate Alumni who wants to be a Real Man. A big brother to three little men and an Aggie (whoop!) he loves Jesus, music, people, the outdoors, traveling, carpentry, musing and manliness the way God meant it.
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