I dropped off the poetry books at the Inverness Cathedral. A friend was curating an Easter art exhibition “Walk with Me” in the lady chapel at the top left hand corner of the cathedral. It was due to open the next day.
“Do you want the guided tour?” she asked me as she waved me forward.
I am sure she could see it all in her head. She knew exactly what piece of artwork was going where. It just wasn’t there yet. I found myself gazing at big pieces of white board – just the boards but no pictures.
“Remember the archway picture? Well that’s going to go here…and there’s a sculpture that’s going to go in this corner…” I nodded vaguely.
Throughout the week she has been posting photos of the exhibition and writing commentaries on who has been to visit and the conversations she has had with people about the artwork. There was an audio guide and some of my Easter poems have been included.
This morning I went to see the exhibition. I was down to man the help desk later on in the day but wanted time to look at the pictures, listen to the commentary and sit quietly. I had managed to download the soundtrack onto an MP3 player but it had helpfully rearranged the tracks alphabetically. It wasn’t the chronology of the gospels. Things were just a little out of sync and I found myself retracing my steps once or twice. I had permission to take photos, but not full head on. Actually, my curious angles and close-ups made for an interesting result!
I’d seen some of the pictures in last year’s “Art of Easter” exhibition. The much smaller selection of pictures and the more intimate space gave more time to really look at the details. I think last year I wasn’t impressed that Jesus in the picture "Gethsemane" was naked. So, I’m a bit of a prude! This time though, what occurred to me was – isn’t that how we all approach God? Naked? There’s really nothing we can hide behind, no amount of designer clothing that covers us up before God. To consciously remove the camouflage – isn’t that our challenge as we come before God and present our petitions? I think we do far too little of our praying on our knees and face down. Posture says everything.
There was a small sculpture of clay and wood on the same subject matter – Jesus in Gethsemane. There should have been a notice propped up against it saying “Please touch!” The colour and the texture appealed to my tactile gene. Clay can sometimes look fragile – and it seemed an apt medium – Jesus praying in Gethsemane had to be his most fragile moment in that fully human body of his.
Sieger Koder is a favourite artist of mine. A really well placed pew to be still, a powerpoint display of pictures taken from his stations of the cross and some excellent poetry on the audio tape combined to make it a highlight for me. OK, I admit I was listening to my poetry! When my friend asked me to record the poems, she seemed concerned that I would get choked up and emotional and it would take us ages to do. Reading them was not a problem. Listening to them being read – listening to me reading the poems – I got seriously choked up. I suppose when you are reading there’s the next word to think about and the inflection of the voice. Listening - there’s nothing to do but listen and lose yourself in the moment. It was an emotional moment. I knew the familiar words I’d written and yet I almost didn’t.
Another picture “Three Days Later” depicted the upper room days after the Passover Meal. I had worked out the bit about the table cloth being a prayer shawl long before the artist told me on the audio guide. The water in the bowl Jesus had used to wash the disciples feet seemed a little too clean to me and I had small issues about the shadows made by light hitting the various cups on the table. Fundamentally, even though housework and I are not close companions, it irked me that no one had cleared the table in three days. Were they not in that same upper room hiding before Jesus appeared? It is precisely when I am upset that I bang about in the kitchen doing the washing up.
I liked the exhibition a lot. I liked the intimacy of it. There were enough pictures to focus the mind and the spirit, but not too many that you felt you were drowning.
Did I like the Cathedral setting? Sitting at the help desk, fairly immobile, I felt the cold creeping slowly into my bones. It was a grey day outside so the stained glass windows didn’t light up with colour splashes on the walls or the floor.
I liked being in the city centre and the visitors that accidentally found the exhibition really loved the time and space to think about Easter. I know it’s never about numbers but for much of the time I felt the emptiness of the building was an indicator of how far removed the church has become from many people. Even at Easter, a time of reflection, of sober thought about the crucifixion, of celebration of the resurrection – for most people, it doesn’t really touch them.
But then, one of those “most people” walk through the door…and they are touched, most unexpectedly…and God draws near.