Art seems to get away with telling big truths

The message that accompanied the sculptures had a meta-narrative. In other words, the message was big rather than bite-size. It carried an ‘in your face’ kind of one. The narrative proclaimed truth and in our post-Christendom pluralistic culture of multiple truths this is a hard message to convey. It has been my increasing experience over the past 20 years that I have encountered more and more people who regard truth as being relative rather than in any way fact. In other words: ‘it may be true for you but it isn’t true for me.’

And yet, spending 5 days on the streets of Peterborough over 350 people engaged with one of the sculptures by asking questions and taking part of it home with them and a further 200 or so people engaged with another piece of installation art.

The message that accompanied the first sculpture was: 

The Cross of Christ is the key to heaven.

That’s a big claim. On each of the keys that I had collected over 2 years from the local Timpson key cutting shop (they gave me their rejects) I then had spayed white and then attached this big message about the cross. On the other side was one of seven verses:

  1. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. IMG_0190Matthew 7.7

  2. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you will eat with me. Revelation 3.20

  3. Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter.Psalm 24.8

  4. Happy are those who listen to me, watching at my door every day, waiting at my open doorway. Proverbs 8.24

  5. May the Lord fill your hearts with God’s love. May Christ give you the strength to go on. 2 Thess 3.5

  6. “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to…” Luke 13.24

  7. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” John 20.26

The keys formed a cross shape on the face of the big key… and rather than being driven away by the symbol people gathered round to ask questions and engage with the sculpture.

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The other sculpture was very popular with children, but not so much with adults. Not surprisingly really, considering that the door was just under 4 foot tall! Non the less some people did pass through with some gentle encouragement. Others just watched, took pictures or asked me and the team about the symbolism. The message was one of Jesus’ teaching on entering the Kingdom of heaven:

Jesus said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’ Matthew 18.3

The conversations we had overall were prompted by the questions that people had about what we were doing. As ‘street evangelism’ goes while the means of communicating the message wasn’t preachy the sculptures themselves proclaimed a lot of content that we were then able to share and explain with those who asked us. Some people after engaging with the sculptures asked us to pray for them while others ‘randomly’ chose keys and read the verses on them and pondered what it meant for them in their situation.

Would I do this again? Absolutely! While I have used symbols and creativity for many years to communicate the Christian faith I was challenged by how the depth and exclusivity of the gospel message was easily communicated through the sculptures I had made, they seemed to get away with telling big truths that a person proclaiming on the streets couldn’t.

End note: By the way… If you’re curious about how I made the sculptures I used the help of a local carpenter Richard Dring based in Great Gransden. He gave his time to making the shapes for me, I then painted and put the hooks and keys together. The sculptures are available to borrow for a gift to Light Project Peterborough (who funded the making and showing of them.) Here are some shots as to the process of getting them made and set up:

 

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