ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 11, 2011) –Michigan artist Laura Bell is a little fuzzy about the details of her portrait -The Last Supper. That’s because she used fluffy dryer lint as the medium for her take on this famous work of art. The massive masterpiece measures 14 feet long by 4 feet tall and has been acquired by Ripley’s Believe It or Not! …
Bell says she spent seven months saving the lint from her own dryer … she ended up buying towels in the colors that she wanted to use in the portrait and washed and dried them separately to get lint with just the right tint. She estimates that she spent 700-800 hours just doing laundry to get the lint she needed for The Last Supper. She says it took another 200 hours to create the portrait. All the lint in her portrait is as it came out of the dryer and has not been colored or dyed.
She says she’s been thrilled by the response from people who have seen it, and the prospect of millions more seeing it via Ripley’s. “For some people, it’s a very spiritual experience,” said Bell. “Others are simply amazed at what someone could do with basic laundry lint.”
This past summer I took my family through the Ripley’s “Odditorium” in Niagara Falls. I remember seeing similar pictures made from dryer lint (and other more disturbing media). But nothing quite so grand or wonderful as this! The best part of all this for me is the artist’s quote near the end: “For some people, it’s a very spiritual experience. Others are simply amazed at what someone could do with basic laundry lint.” Count me as one of those who sees this as a very spiritual experience. But not simply for the subject matter of the lint in question.
I for one, am amazed, not by what can be done with ordinary lint, but with ordinary lives. As this lady crafted the product of 800 loads of laundry into an iconic work of art, so to does God mold and shape the basic components of everyday lives, into a work of art with heavenly meaning. For me, the spiritual experience is in the doing of the laundry, not the picture at the end. 800 hours of laundry is in itself a glorious picture of one person’s love and commitment to her home and family.
In Lutheran circles we call that vocation. And vocation truly is a very spiritual experience. When a mother cares for her sick children. When a father plays with his son or daughter. When grandparents send cards and call on birthdays. When employees work diligently, when students learn to the best of their abilities … when ordinary people do the ordinary things of ordinary life … extraordinary beauty unfolds. Most of the time we are so busy doing it that we can’t see it. But if we just step back and look again, we might just be surprised at the work of art before us.
That’s why God the Father sent His Son Jesus. An divine artist in the medium of basic humanity. A flesh and blood saviour to weave His life and vocation into our own. In doing all that ordinary sons should do He redeemed those who are children. Through His devotion to work He redeemed workers. Through His limitless compassion to His fellow man He redeemed neighbours. In faithfully paying taxes He redeemed citizens. In suffering and dying He redeemed those who suffer and die. In rising to everlasting life He gives life the living. Water for Baptism, Words for faith, Bread and Wine for His body and Blood. God uses the ordinary to achieve a very Spiritual Experience – Forgiveness, Life, and Salvation!
And in Christ, your life as a husband or wife, as a son or a daughter, a grandparent, a student, mentor, employer or employee … this is the raw material that God, the greatest artist of them all, is using to build His greatest masterpiece! Strand by strand, the grand tapestry is woven together, as we are built up and we in turn build others up by doing the work that is before us to do. By itself no one thread, no single bit of dryer lint, seems like all that much. Taking that time to spend with your children, going to the extra effort at work, being neighbourly … again, not much. Not the material we would have used to leave our mark. But put it all together in the hands of a master artist and you have something truly amazing. A grand masterpiece of Biblical proportions!