512px-The_Copper_Cowboy_living_statueHave you ever seen one of those living statues?  Often in high-traffic tourist regions, these performers wear metallic garb along with their face paint and strike a pose for pocket change.  Sometimes, cheeky artisans will change position without warning, eliciting screams from those capitalizing on a photo-op. Even those things which we think are stony may suddenly spring to life — what a potent object lesson!

In 2010, artist Marina Abramovic performed the media sensation “The Artist is Present” at the Modern Museum of Art in New York City. Sitting in a chair across a simple wooden table from dozens of strangers one at a time, Ms. Abramovic looked deeply into each person’s eyes, holding his or her gaze without distraction. Every day the museum was open for almost three months, Marina sat and received visitors in her spare parlor “square of light” in the middle of the MOMA. One popular YouTube clip of her project depicted the artist sitting opposite a former artistic collaborator, whose session ended with Marina breaking one of her boundaries set down for the exhibit when she reached out her hands on the table to connect with her old friend.

Marina undertook this ambitious project as the climax of her artistic career; the documentary made of the project goes so far as to consider this work her last ditch bid for legitimacy in the art world, for herself and for the field of performance art. However, the marginalization of performance art is no new problem. For thousands of years, performance artists have suffered stares or anonymity at best, and heckling or death threats at worst.

As a siege besets Jerusalem during Jeremiah’s tenure as prophet, God directs him to buy a piece of property, the very land which is about to fall to the Babylonians, as a symbol of God’s promised redemption (Jer. 32). Just a few chapters earlier, Jeremiah bought and buried some underwear, unearthing them a few weeks later to wear the rotten cotton around town, exposing himself the way that Israel has exposed herself to idolatrous living (Jer. 13).  It’s hard to think of a job worse than that of performance artist — enacting with one’s body and very life foundational truths of the universe.


And yet, each Christian is called to live her or his life as an offering, mimicking Truth incarnate, Jesus Christ. We may not be called to wear camel’s hair and eat locusts, spending our time wandering in the desert, but we may very well be called to say uncomfortable truths out loud, garnering sneers or thrown tomatoes. We may not be asked to marry a whore like Hosea was, but we may be asked to sit still next to the dying body of our parent or even a least-favorite sibling.

God the great artist offers constant color to texture our lives, creating great masterpieces which echo his own image. How might God be inviting you to join in his great work today?

The featured image is “The Copper Cowboy living statue” (2007) by Wikimeda user acgenerator. It is licensed under Creative Commons.  

About The Author

The Rev. Emily Hylden serves as vicar of St. Augustines’s Oak Cliff in Dallas.

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