Where Is God in Art? An Interview with Dr. Lisa Sharpe
As the new school year continues to roll in, students welcome another member to the faculty and staff of Greenville College. With a Doctoral degree in Education, a Master’s in Arts, and a Bachelor’s in Art and Computer Graphics, Dr. Lisa Sharpe comes to Greenville with a lot to offer. However, her educational background is not the only thing she has to pass on. As a long-standing Christ-follower and art-enthusiast, Lisa beams with insight on how the creative world can be connected to that of the spiritual. She has dedicated her time, gifts, and talents to this cause and through her perseverance she one day hopes to recruit more members to the Creative Kingdom of Christ.
When asked to reflect on where she specifically sees religion coming into play with art, Sharpe referred back to some of the earliest instances where painters, sculptors, and their god all connected on a creative level:
“When you think about it historically a lot of the art that you see from non-Western Cultures is very based in spirituality. It’s not based in Christianity, but it’s based in spirituality. And even art from European culture all the way up through the 20th century was either dedicated to God or reacting against having all art be dedicated to God.”
While historically God and art were a common intersection, Sharpe quipped that in her own life, the coupling had been evident in a few phases, the first of which she compared to being the seed that was sewn underground and the seed that was sewn on thorns. She claimed she was “too caught up in the cares of the world,” and it “crushed her desire to give it all to God.” The artistic dry spell that put her in this position lasted ten years until she said, “Okay, God, I haven’t felt inspired to make art in a really long time, and all the art I’ve made is really uninspiring…So I’m giving it all to you. What do you want to do in my life?”
The surrendering of her identity as an artist and her servanthood to Christ did not miraculously happen overnight. But about six months later, she woke up at 1:30 in the morning with a film in her mind. Later this film went on to become her most renowned piece, a short by the name of I AM Here.
When looking back on the work of her hands and what it took to finish such an outstanding final product, Dr. Sharpe pointed to 1 Corinthians 13:3 and how it had manifested in her life. She remarked, “I think it really has to do with trusting the Holy Spirit to lead you and being willed to surrender the self, even up to the burning of my identity as an artist and starting over after all those years.”
However, in light of recent struggles, Sharpe indicates that finding God in art isn’t always that simple; “Sometimes it’s just easy to surrender the self when you really see God working and miracles happening…, but sometimes God doesn’t speak…Why not? I don’t know. Why did the Israelites have to wander in the wilderness for forty years? Why…was [Moses] never allowed to enter the promised land? I don’t know…I’m wandering in the wilderness a little bit now.”
Dr. Sharpe’s encouragement to herself and others who are going through the same thing is to remember that “If you were born with a talent, or a desire, or a gift, God wants to use that gift and He put that gift in you for a purpose [James 1:17]. You can use that gift any way you want. You can use it to glorify yourself; and you can use it to glorify Him. The tough part is knowing when you’re glorifying yourself and when you’re glorifying Him. But if your intention is to glorify Him, and you’re going through a dry spell, I say be consistent…Be even more diligent to…surrender your talent to the Lord [Romans 12:1], to spend time in prayer, and to recognize that God may be maturing your eye for the next thing.”
If you need a tangible example of how you can find God in art this way, Dr. Lisa Sharpe urges you to consider the work of Michelangelo. “[It] was very much about freeing sculpture inside the block of marble and that’s how to think about being a Christian artist—you are that block of marble and God’s chipping away at you to reveal the beauty He wants to see, and it’s from that beauty that art arises.”