Last week I had a chance to go to the National Art Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. I was with a class of Grade 8 students and, to be honest, I wondered how they would handle the experience. Well, it was fabulous. And it was so good because of our energetic and knowledgeable guide. Rather than having the kids look at everything in the gallery and feel overwhelmed, she had the kids focus in on about 10 or 12 pieces, all from different periods of art history. And the kids loved it. For example, we spent about 10 minutes examining a 17th C Flemish painting by Jacob Jordaens. She helped the kids discover all the interesting elements in the painting: what the characters are doing (who is the jester? why is the mother struggling to hold her glass?), the strange details (why are there an owl and a parrot in the scene, but the bird cage is empty?). By leading them through the scene, our guide helped them to see the message in the painting: that the sins of the parents do harm to the next generation.
I loved watching the kids’ reaction as whole worlds opened up for them in each piece of art. Some were skeptical: did the artist really do that on purpose? But they were all fascinated, including me. I even gained a new appreciation for the controversial “Voice of Fire,” bought for an astronomical amount of money a number of years ago.
As I wandered through the gallery, listened to our guide and watched the kids, I was struck again by the power of the artist to communicate on a whole different level. And it made me think of the power of the Scriptures as well. The more we take time to explore and examine, the more we discover the riches we have in Christ.