Like many, I grew up going to church. The church we attended was built in a stripped-down cathedral-style. These Presbyterians had a vision and the means to build. Lots of carved wood, of course, but also a soaring ceiling with massive white columns. The sanctuary wasn’t overcrowded with images, as sometimes happens. The light from the windows was beautiful, but again, not dark. The overall effect left room for the imagination.
My parents put me into art classes from a young age. The first ones were held upstairs in the local hockey arena. I can’t believe we all sat on the rough floor where the dances were held and beer spilled, and drew for two hours. There was lots of space and light, but it was grotty space.
Then the local art gallery took over and the art classes moved into their space. Forgive me for saying, but I found a new spiritual home. Sure, I churned out the crazy activities the instructors had planned, but then I escaped. I wandered the galleries.
The galleries held public space in an intimate way, the lighting often low. A bench might be the sole occupant of the centre of the room. A child could move and turn and be active. Stand back, approach, retreat, wonder. I had no idea what the images meant, but they evoked a broad range of feelings and showed a world that went beyond the homogenous biblical narrative in the church sanctuary. I became an equal partner, though a very young one, in the discourse between viewer and image in the gallery space.
I’m not afraid of space, of being alone in it. I like the excitement, the possibilities. I still find wonder in galleries, still experience culture and images with my whole body. Can you imagine it?