Over the last five days, I’ve been to three art shows. The first was the “Dreams Deferred” exhibit at the Chinese American Museum in LA, highlighting the work of street artists responding to the recent issues of immigration reform. The exhibit displayed everything from protesting piñata men to spray painted canvases to retro ad posters.
My favorite part, though, was the timeline that traveled across the wall, outlining the history of immigration to the U.S. I could pinpoint where my great grandfather came over to America to work (and eventually die) on the railroad, and when my own family made the arduous journey from China to Hong Kong (where my mom was born) to Sacramento.
The CAM made it interactive by providing a stack of post-its for museum-goers to add their own stories to the timeline, and postcards for you to send to your relatives, imagining what it would have been like to leave your family and come to California to make a new life.
The other two art shows were at Biola, one for two of my former classmates and one for one of my current students. One was a photo documentary type exhibit featuring the people KHeng got to know during her time at the Union Rescue Mission in LA. Exploring the ideas of addiction, brokenness, and blessedness, the photographs and the stories they told moved me in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time. Probably not since high school, when we spent a week living down near Skid Row.
The last show I went to was last night and featured the photography work of one of my former hallmates and an installation by the visual director who worked for me when I was the Point editor. Besides touring the gallery, I also bumped into old classmates and ran into a former professor (who was also my academic advisor in the English department).
I think seeing so many art shows in such a short amount of time made me realize how much I wish God had gifted me that way. Usually when I mention that to people, I get responses like, “No, you must be artistic too,” or “You’re just artistic in a different way ” or “I wish I were too” (that one always from someone incredibly gifted in one art form or another).
I’ve always been drawn to the artistic types — the photographers, filmmakers, musicians, graphic designers — hoping to absorb by osmosis what I lack almost entirely myself. It’s not that I can’t draw a decent stick figure, or that I totally miss my subject in the viewfinder. It’s that, even in my own field of writing, I’m not artistic enough to write a short work of fiction (you can’t imagine how difficult it was when I took novel writing senior year).
I’ve been contemplating a lot recently about what kind of writer God wants me to be, about what kind of person He is molding me in to. Dad pointed out to me that I spend a lot of time thinking about all the qualities I wish I had and all the qualities I don’t have. And the gifts that I might actually have don’t make me feel any better.
The last several months, I think God has been chiseling away at my own desires and expectations for myself, showing me that He made me a certain way for a reason (whatever that reason is, I’m not sure yet). He’s been reminding me, “I am the ultimate artist, and everything I created — even you, Lynnette — is good.”
On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?