Hold fast like lichen: Art’s power to redirect our thoughts
By Tohru Inoue | International
'Hold Fast' by Pete McCarthy. Photo by Pete McCarthy.
As SIM’s global arts point person, Pete McCarthy coordinates a community of ‘creatives’ within SIM with the goal of harnessing the power of arts to speak the gospel. During a recent arts focused Zoom meeting exploring the theme of “evergreen”. Pete shared on screen a piece he had created in 2021 called “Hold Fast”, which took inspiration from lichen he observed growing on trees.
I’ll tell you how I experienced the piece.
It’s a large canvas. Stood close to it, you would have to turn your head to appreciate its entirety. The vertical lines of green and grey evoked the feeling of trees, and I felt as though I was surrounded by the forest.
Then there were the patterns: concentric blotches of varying colour meant to represent lichen. Each group of blotches had its own characteristic shape and colour. I imagined each of the different groups of lichens having their own personalities.
Those musings made me lean in and examine things more closely. I imagined the idiosyncratic preferences of the lichens. They seemed to hang out on particular parts of the tree. I imagined some enjoyed facing the morning sun while others preferred the warmth of the evening rays. I knew which I would be. Some of the colours were dialed up to ‘eleven’. Others were more conventional. But whether loud or subdued, east- or west-facing lichens, they all lived on the great tree.
And just as the lichen is stuck to the tree, these blotches were inextricably melted into the canvas, with no way of peeling one off without destroying it. What’s more, as lichen cannot survive on its own; neither could each blotch of paint without the canvas of trees.
Observing the piece together in the online meeting made us reflect as a group on times when we felt peeled off that strong tree and were falling apart: those time when we tried operating on our own and almost withered. The piece reminded us what keeps us alive and evergreen. Art has power. It can make people stop and think and feel the gospel.
Pete’s canvas hangs in the SIM Cote d’Ivoire office – a visual reminder for the ‘lichens’ working there to hold fast.
Hold fast to that tree! It’s the only thing keeping you alive! Of course, Pete’s not talking about trees. He’s only ever been preaching the gospel.
But I’m sure you knew that all this time.
• For SIM Arts internships and how they might spur artists to share the gospel.
• For creatives to remain creative and rejoice in that gifting.
• For the arts to continue to change lives.
If you’re an artist, why not come and talk to us about how your art can impact the world. Check out our Creative Arts page to learn more.