LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Monday, February 26, 2007

Beverly Key: Beginning with a Box of Crayons

Visual artist Beverly Key’s work hangs in collectors’ homes and corporate offices both here and in England. My husband and I are big fans of her work and have several pieces ourselves, including a commission.

Last summer my daughter, my nieces, my sister and I watched Beverly as she created one of her trademark pours using filters and other elements. It was fascinating to watch the process, to actually see the colors blend into a stunning abstract landscape. Later my husband surprised me with the painting for my birthday. (He did good.)

LeAnne: When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

Early on—when I was in first grade and tried to sneak a box of crayons into the grocery cart. As I was growing up I always thought of myself as an artist. I was one of the ones in school who was always doing the bulletin boards for the teachers. Both of my parents painted as a hobby so I grew up with the smell of oil and turpentine. I took some art classes after school with a wonderful woman, Abbott Downing (of course, in south Alabama we called her “Miss Abbott”).

However, I graduated from college with a degree in special education and thought that would be what I would do. I taught for a few years, got married, had 2 boys and in 1986 we moved to Atlanta. At that time, we decided to have another child and I decided to take some art classes at the Atlanta College of Art. Since then I have been painting professionally.

LM: Have you found that the church doesn’t understand your calling as an artist?

Yes, I always had the feeling that as far as many Christians are concerned, the arts are suspect and held to a higher standard than the more “practical” occupations. I think it has something to do with thinking that the senses are evil, not given by God. It is really very Manichaean ( soul=good, body=evil). Jacques Maritain, the Catholic Philosopher who was a confidant of Thomas Merton and Pope Paul VI at the time of the Second Vatican Council has a quote that I have always drawn strength from:

“Thus for the apprentice as a painter or as a composer, the primary rule is to follow purely the pleasure of his eyes or ears in the colors or sounds he will be responsible for; to respect this pleasure and pay total attention to it; at every instant to produce nothing but what the senses are fully pleased with. For the creativity of the spirit, in its longing for beauty, passes through the senses and is vigilant in them, in a fragile way.”

More from Beverly Key on Thursday.

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