“In the beginning, God created heaven and Earth,” the preacher said, clutching his Bible. “And the Earth was without form, and so He formed unto its canvas that art known as mankind and his surroundings, and it was His greatest creation. And there shall be no other art but that by God the Artist.”
That’s ridiculous, Vigo thought, keeping his expression serene. He sat among the faithful in a church of colorless grays, without so much as a flash of color to interrupt its absolute plainness.
None knew of the contraband he wore under his gray cloak. He had created it at odd moments away from the fields where he and the townsfolk grew and gathered God’s art in the form of wheat and corn, later to be eaten to sustain God’s primary artwork, mankind.
The preacher continued: “It is a sin to change our Lord’s perfect art, to make imperfect that which was perfect. Some look in a mirror, and use a comb to fix that which the Lord had made perfect. Some see a wrinkle in an item of clothing, and use an iron to fix that which the Lord had made perfect. Some see a bit of uneven crabgrass in a lawn of finer grass, and pull it to fix that which the Lord had made perfect. Some think these are minor sins, and the Lord will not care.”
Vigo fingered the comb in his pocket. He had the best-kept hair in a room of unkempt monstrosities. That was perfect art? He’d seen pictures of people that styled their hair until it was truly art. What was wrong with that?
The preacher slammed the Bible down on his pulpit and thundered, “There are no minor sins! When you sin, you place a blotch on God’s work, and become one more piece of art that was perfect, but is perfect no more.
“And so I say unto you, put away your mirrors and combs, your irons and weeding gloves, for the artwork that stays true to its perfect nature shall inherit the Earth.”
Hypocrisy, Vigo thought. The preacher’s robe was the purest white in a room full of gray, making him stand out like a peacock.
It was time, he decided. He’d been planning this moment for many months. Now that the moment was here, he found he could barely breathe. He rose to his feet and raised a trembling hand, his heart racing. He had hoped to stay calm.
Smiling, the preacher said, “Yes, Brother Vigo?”
“Is it not a sin to put on a play in a theatre, as the wicked from the past once did?”
The preacher nodded. “Aye, Brother Vigo, those that would do theatre are blots upon the canvas of the Lord.”
“And is it a sin because their actions are an attempt at art, when only God may do art?” His mind began to clear.
“Rightly so, Brother Vigo. Your observations are astute.”
“Then, since actions can be art, and since we are God’s art, are not our actions also His artwork?” A calm overtook him. He’d visualized this scene a thousand times.
“Mr. Vigo!” the preacher exclaimed, walking down the aisle toward him. “You do not have the training to interpret the art of God.”
Vigo stepped into the aisle. “Some see the actions of God’s artwork, mankind, and seek to change that which the Lord had made perfect. Is that not a sin?” The two men faced each other, with all eyes upon them.
“Art does not make art!” the preacher cried.
“You are wrong,” Vigo said, his heart again racing, but this time with exhilaration. He tore off his cloak, exposing the bright red shirt beneath. There were gasps. The blue lettering across the front said, in two slanted lines, Art is Beauty. Beauty is Art. A colorful rainbow underlined it. It had taken him a long time and many ruined shirts to get right.
The preacher stepped back, a peacock scorned. “Brother Vigo, you have fallen to a place from which you cannot return.”
“I do not wish to return.” Vigo looked about at the congregation. “God gave us the ability to create beauty. A belief that says we must not create this beauty as He intended is a false belief.” He walked to the door, then turned back.
“I am no longer a member of this church of gray, but join me, and we will create beauty in all its forms — paintings, statues, music, poetry, and any others we find.”
There was a hop to his step as he left the building. Art should be done for its own beauty, he thought, not for some God. We’ll fight this battle one brushstroke at a time, and make the world a better canvas for all.
Larry Hodges, of Germantown, MD, is an active member of SFWA with over 40 short story sales, over half of them since summer 2008. He’s a graduate of the six-week 2006 Odyssey Writers’ Workshop, the 2007 Orson Scott Card Literary Boot Camp, and the 2008 Taos Toolbox Writers’ Workshop. He’s a full-time writer with three books and over 1200 published articles in over 100 different publications. He’s also a member of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame (Google it!), and once beat someone while using an ice cube as a racket. Visit him at www.larryhodges.org.