Feast of Saint Mark
“The Picasso” is a 50-foot-tall sculpture in downtown Chicago that has been a landmark monument for the city since its dedication in 1967. Like most art, it is not free of controversy, however! Because Pablo Picasso never revealed what it was, some have guessed 1) an abstract replica of an Afghan hound, or 2) an African mask, or
3) even a sculpture inspired by a French woman, Lydia Corbett, who posed for the painter-artist in 1954. I have always appreciated Picasso’s response when a journalist asked him what the sculpture was. “If I could say it in words,” he said, “I wouldn’t have created a sculpture”!
Saint Mark, whose feast we celebrate today, concludes his Good News narrative in a parallel, very open-ended or abstruse way. Instead of an overt or lucid description of the resurrection, we hear only of an empty tomb. People of faith must write and live their own conclusion.
Perhaps that is what good art — whether music, literature, graphics — and good religion, often must be, viz., obscure, unfinished. So, the viewer or listener must complete the piece with their own experience. As followers of Jesus, as the Body of Christ, we now preach Christ crucified. We take up our cross and become disciples in mission. We proclaim the resurrection.
Today Chicago can boast of many grand, wonder-filled public pieces of art: several months after the Picasso dedication, a sculpture entitled Nuclear Energy by Henry Moore was dedicated where the Manhattan Project team devised the first nuclear reactor here at the University of Chicago. Works by Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, and Joan Miró also tell us to finish the story. Remember Rilke’s words in Letters to a Young Poet?
I want to ask you, as clearly as I can, to bear with patience all that is unresolved in your heart,
and try to love the questions themselves, as if they were rooms yet to enter or books written
in a foreign language. Don’t dig for answers that can’t be given you yet: you live them now.
For everything must be lived. Live the questions now, perhaps then, someday, you will gradually,
without noticing, live into the answer. (Rainer Maria Rilke)
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.