The Numinous Experience through Color

I have to admit--this is a "blog-in-process" and not one that I can write emphatically. But, as I am doing research for my next book, fulfilling the "homework" given to me by my mentor, and attempting to engage in experiential learning (which I believe is the most transformative), I want to share what I am learning.

Recently, my husband and I went to Washington, D.C. and spent an extended amount of time in the Rothko Room of the Phillips Collection gallery. This gallery was the first one for modern art in the United States and contains an amazing number of quality--both well-known and obscure--pieces of contemporary art. But, my specific assignment was to spend time in the one small room that contains four large Rothko paintings and a bench in the center. As I entered the room, I was struck with the depth and vibrancy of the colors used by Rothko in these squares or rectangles of color. But, the longer I focussed on these canvases, the more profound they became.

As I stared at the colors that seemed to be hanging or hovering on the canvas, the more I was aware of the power of color. Each painting elicited an emotional response dependent on the colors used-- peace, disquiet, joy, wonder or delight. Just from the use of color.

As art often does for me, my mind was taken back to the source of creativity, the Creator God. While I've much yet to understand, I realized that these colors were but refractions of the light waves. All colors are the result of light being broken or bent. Amazing. As I thought of God, the source of Light, I mused on the possibilities of what existed before the Creation when only the Triune God existed. . . pure, blinding Light. Did color exist at that time? Does color exist when there are no eyes to behold the broken or refracted light? Obviously, I have much yet to learn about color theory, but sitting in the midst of the luminous offerings of color, my mind did dwell on these questions.

Also, I meditated on the spiritual truth that as the Light of God shines forth through the brokenness of our world and of our lives, it results in the beauty of color that brings healing, peace and joy. I remember my own experience of hearing from God in an abstract art gallery when in deep despair and grief. God clearly assured me that He could make something beautiful out of the broken pieces of my heart and soul, if I would trust Him with my pain. And so He has done. How often do we prevent our lives being God's prism of brilliant colors because we deny the Light to shine through our brokenness?

It is said that Rothko stated about his paintings during his abstract period, "tragic experience is the only source book for art" and that these paintings were "experiences of tragedy and ecstasy, as the basic condition of existence." (Jacob Baal-Teshuva in Rothko ). While I believe he understood the power of these paintings, I wonder if he ever comprehended the spiritual depth of them. . . of how they spoke of the Creator Himself. 

For me, sitting in the midst of this designated Rothko Room, it was a numinous experience of transcendence and transformation. God be praised.