See, I have called by name . . ., and I have filled him with the spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting and in carving wood, to work in every craft. Exodus: 1-5
Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. This museum was overflowing with fascinating, vibrant and thought-provoking art. It was an extraordinary experience to be “one with the art” as I walked through tunnels, up and down stairs, and into grottos filled with amusing and colorful mosaics of glass bottles, statues, folk art objects, hand-made tiles, bicycle wheels, and even some peculiar objects, which quite honestly were wonderfully weird. What made the experience even more visually stunning were the thousands of sparkling mirrors.
While at the museum, I learned that the artist, Isaiah Zagar, was and continues to be inspired by art history and other influences in his life. But I couldn’t help but be struck by my experience there, and the art’s meaning in my own life and world, especially at it relates to my faith, the way I see God, and how I see God in others.
Though I’m not equaling Zagar to God, I am intrigued by his story and how he saw the potential in vacant lots on Philly’s South Street. He took this desolate space—spending years sculpting multi-layer walls out of assorted objects—turning it into a world all its own.
Doesn’t our God do the same for us? He takes the barren places in our lives, and turns them into something fruitful, fulfilling, and even sparkling. He takes us and makes us who we are—creative, inspired, interesting and passionate people. Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. Psalm 119:73
And that’s not all! Going back to the artist’s work, what if Zagar had only showcased one piece of art? I am sure it would have been nice, but it wouldn’t have been as spectacular and enthralling as the Magic Gardens. In those “gardens,” Zagar brought together the unique, the unexpected, the mismatched and the broken pieces—to create a masterpiece!
I love the quote by Oscar Wilde: “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” Whether or not that’s true in the Magic Gardens, or in our own lives, it is certainly something to ponder. God fashioned us to live and love together—no matter our ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, physical features (I could go on and on). We are just better together! And God sees our beauty—even when the world doesn’t. He sees into us as individuals, and collectively, as part of His greater creation. He created us to be different to enrich and bring joy to our lives. I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are your works, And my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14
Our Lord looks into our hearts, knows our thoughts and sees our potentials. And like Zagar did with his art, God saves what others may consider worthless and lost (you and me), and through His grace, designs masterpieces!
As for the thousands of mirrors in the Magic Gardens, they, too, have meaning. As you walk through the museum, the mirrors reflect the beauty of the art many times over. As God’s people, we are called to reflect God’s light and beauty to others. Another favorite quote of mine says it best, “There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
Thank you Zagar for being this artist’s inspiration. For it was in your mosaics that I found a magical meaningful moment!