Viewing Art - A Soul Nourishing Exercise

Gail Seidel's picture

A few weeks ago during a doctoral of ministry residency our students and two professors spent an afternoon of silence at the Biblical Art Museum. Having been immersed in the readings and discussion of soul care biblically and historically we offered this simple, soul nourishing, soul - noticing exercise. We experienced this same exercise attending the Dallas Art Museum last summer.

Viewing art offers a place to rest, breaks the rush rhythm of living in the fast lane and offers your soul an opportunity to be nourished in a place of creativity, wonder, curiosity and even dissonance.

Thomas Moore, in his book Soul Care, a Guide for Cultivating depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life states that “the soul is nurtured by beauty… for the soul, beauty is not defined as pleasantness of form but rather as the quality in things that invites absorption and contemplation…what food is to the body, arresting, complex and pleasant images are to the soul.”

The instructions beforehand for each of us were:
 “Given the place of beauty and creativity in soul nourishment, consider your internal responses and noticings as we view the art in this museum. Pay attention to the paintings, sculptures and artifacts you are drawn to and why. Pay attention to what does not attract you and take note of your thoughts during that observation. Do not feel like you have to rush through this museum. You may only want to focus on a few pieces – especially those that arrest your attention.
Use this as a time of silence so you can better hear and notice what is stirring within you. Honor the silence of others as we participate in this exercise in community. When we return to the classroom we will break our silence as we debrief on this exercise. May God grant you eyes to see and notice and may your soul be nourished.”

Debriefing back in the class the diversity of how the art impacted each student emphasized the unique soul needs each of us has. No one was impacted in the same way. Hearing others’ insights was corporately soul nourishing in itself.

My take- aways: the prominence of the figure of Esther in Marc Chagall’s sketch highlighted centuries later the giant role she had in saving her people of Israel. The sovereignty of God over history came into sharp focus and I was comforted.

In the Ryrie Bible Collection, the sobering reminder that the two men, Wycliffe AND Gutenberg, were martyred for simply translating the bible into English. A deep sense of humbling gratitude welled up inside of me convicting me of how we take so much for granted not considering or even knowing the price that was paid for the accessibility of bibles we enjoy.

When I finished looking at the exhibits in the moments of silence remaining these thoughts flooded my mind – stopping and giving myself a respite offers a chance to breathe, slow down, live normally. I was reminded how much I  needed rest, a long rest. I came away refreshed and more aware of how critical a simple exercise is to keeping my soul nourished in order to offer soul nourishing to others.

Consider visiting an art museum for a bit of soul nourishment for yourselves.‎   Museum of Biblical Art, 7500 Park Lane Dallas, 75225 214-368-4622



That's true there is a different silence and calmness in the room.Everyone just watching the art silently.

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