When I first saw this installation, I did a double-take. The juxtaposition of the sacred and the secular made me pause. The beautiful stained glass of traditional religious expression made up of graffiti and street slang. Yet still beautiful. Then I noticed the young man below, praying on his knees next to a paint can and brush. And then there’s the title of the piece: “Forgive us our Trespasses.” Forgive me for making judgments about the character of a person who would dare to mar beauty with grit. This 23-foot high installment of street art is reverent, holy and beautiful because it is real and accessible to all. Father forgive us when we lock ourselves behind beautiful stained-glass windows and keep the world at bay.
The artist is a British man named Banksy. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He’s the most-popular least-known artist there is. After dark, he may turn up anywhere and dazzle us with his stenciled figures and gritty content. His street art often acts as a criticism of culture and establishment. Wherever he shows up, he brings the world’s attention. When I was in Venice this summer, we were on a boat tour and the guide showed us where Banksy had painted the image of a migrant child signaling for help on a crumbling wall beside one of the canals. He said it used to be a run-down area of Venice but now, because of Banksy’s graffiti, house prices in that neighborhood have risen dramatically.
His artwork is not limited to the streets. One of his paintings, called “Girl with Balloon,” was sold at a Sotheby’s auction for over $1.3 million. Seconds after the gavel dropped, the canvas began sliding out of the bottom of the frame where a paper shredder had been hidden. Thus, the painting shredded itself before a shocked audience of art buyers and sellers. The work was renamed “Love is in the Bin.” (See photo below.) I encourage you to explore this amazingly creative artist further here.
This week at our church, we are exploring forgiveness, tackling the answer to the tough question, “What do I do when someone has hurt or offended me?” The answer is to forgive, but that is not easy. You have probably heard the anecdote that forgiveness is a gift you give yourself — and that’s true. But how does one go about actually doing it? You can’t just say, “I forgive you,” and it’s over. Maybe we find comfort in the role of the victim. We worry that to move past our pain may require more than we can give. Or we worry that if we forgive someone, we are condoning their behavior. Or that we may become a doormat who lets others walk all over us.
Being Human connection: Forgiveness is complicated, but it is a gift God gives us so that we can live at peace in a world of hurt. We may wonder, “Does that person deserve to be forgiven?” Does anyone deserve to be forgiven? No, yet we are.
Featured art: Banksy, “Forgive us our Trespasses,” 2015 art exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Note: this artwork was a collaboration with the City of Angels public school in Los Angeles. Students were encouraged to write tags on panels erected in their schoolyard before Banksy adapted them.
“Girl with a Balloon” becoming “Love is in the Bin”