Some years ago, actually many years ago, I was moved by a lecture on the sacer and the profanus and how these concepts related to the world of art. The profanus is the prescribed world, the world that can be measured. It is the world of time and taste. It is the secular world, the tangible world. The world of things and stuff. The sacer is the unknown world, the world of dreams and mysteries and secrets. The world of the gods and unanswerable questions. Myths and religious parables abound of heroes journeying to the sacer and bringing something back to the profanus which helps us mortals to better understand, address, and deal with the sacer.
The lecturer went on to say that artists perform the same function as the mythological and religious heroes of old. They venture to the sacer and bring back/ make their art using the tools of the profanus to address and attempt to answer the questions of the unknown. This is where the power of art comes from. It deals with the mysteries of life at some level. An illustration is a visual of the profanus, but real art confronts the unknown.
Last night, my friend Gregory had an opening of 89 pieces of his work. I have written about Gregory before, about his career as a brilliant architect— designing homes in Saudi Arabia and the newest Bahai Temple and Community Center in Tennessee— and about how 9 years ago he was diagnosed with early onset of Altzheimers.
Gregory has discovered artmaking. Once a week he visits an awesome and generous local artist, Nancy Rosen, where she puts materials out for him to work with. And for the last two years, he has been making art in her studio. His first show was at our home two years ago (In the Table/ On the Wall).
At lunch a week ago, Gregory’s partner asked me, “But is it art?” My first response was yes, it was art, because of the purity and genuineness of its intent and vision. And after seeing all the work together, I say yes again, because of Gregory’s sincere journey to some place deep inside himself that touches on the sacer of his disease. Through the fog of not being able to access information, Gregory has accessed something else— his own personal sacer.
There were 60+ people at the opening last night in the Village Hall of Lincolnwood. All admiring and commenting on the work. And buying. Gregory has already sold a third of the pieces in the show (maybe more). And the body of work was remarkable. Certainly the context of Gregory’s disease made the images all the more poignant. Certainly the context of Gregory’s history and the love his community has for him, made the images even more appealing. But his imagery also stood on its own — boldly, assertively, meaningfully.
As words evade Gregory and his verbal fluency diminishes, his images have become his way to express his feelings, his vision of the world, and his ideas of beauty, movement, rhythm, color, and compassion. They are a window into his sacer, the mystery of the person he has become and is still becoming. His images are a gift of the fluent grace he creates as his profanus abilities continue to decline. His images are also a gift of the space, support, love, and grace his partner has created for him.