david linn (American, born 1959)
Oil on panel, 33 x 31 inches
Collection of the artist
Used with permission of the artist
"But blessed are your eyes," Jesus said, "for they see" (Matthew 13:16). The process of interpreting an artwork is very much like interpreting a parable. And the tools for one can be used for the other. Art works of complexity and Jesus' parables are so satisfying because they can mean multiple things to different people, and their interpretation can change as the viewer's/reader's life changes. Sometimes, that can also be a barrier because unlike a simple illustration, an allegorical painting or a dense parable requires more of us than merely listening or looking for answers; we must ask questions, too.
The paintings of Latter-day Saint artist, David Linn are grounded in religious belief, but they urge viewers to ask questions in order to uncover layers of ideas. When you look at art like this that is allegorical in nature, take your time and ask one question and then another and then another: "What is this art work or object trying to communicate? What do I see? What else? What else? What are the connections between those elements? Why are they there? What effect does that have on me? David Linn writes, "When I was young, I used to think that if people didn’t get exactly what I was trying to say, I had failed. But I have come to see that everybody brings something different to a work of art, and some bring something that is more deep and profound than what I could bring. I feel honored that I can create something that allows people to open their own packages in response to the work."
Look at Agreement, above, and give it your interpretation. Then use some of those interpretive tools as you review the ageless and varied parables in this week’s lesson (pp. 46-49). Can you see more than one possible explanation for any of these parables?
When the disciples asked Jesus why he taught in parables, He explained that He used parables—to use today’s vernacular—for the ultimate differentiated spiritual instruction (Matthew 13:10-17). He used parables to teach each learner at his or her level. In discussing the scriptures in your family or group of friends, how can you help direct the discussion in a way that allows all to learn at their level, and that allows all learners to benefit from the insights of the others?
What experiences have you had this week that were parable-like for you, experiences that taught you lessons deeper than what may have appeared simply on the surface?