The experiential test of whether this art is great or good, or minor or abysmal, is the effect it has on your own sense of the world and of yourself. Great art changes you. – Sister Wendy Beckett
The inspiration for this blog entry came from a discussion in the comments over at SandraC’s blog that made me want to introduce Sister Wendy to anyone who hasn't "met" her yet! “Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting” is a BBC series that I watched on PBS when it was first shown in the 1990’s and then I bought the videotapes so I could watch it again and again. It's such an awesome series. Sister Wendy is one of my heroes because she talks about art from her heart and from the perspective of the bigger picture (why art is important, how art can enrich our lives). She's such a fascinating woman and a great teacher.
But what an unlikely TV personality she is! Sister Wendy lives a “contemplative life” of complete seclusion and prayer in a little trailer on the grounds of a monastery in the U.K. She became a nun at age 16, went to university and taught for a while, and then in 1970 at age 40, she went into seclusion. A contemplative life includes two hours of work a day, and Sister Wendy’s work for several decades was studying art on her own. She published a few articles and somehow was discovered by the BBC who took her on the road all over Europe (and later, America) to make these wonderful shows.
She’s an amazingly free thinker (for a nun!), a great storyteller, and she can be very funny and surprising. One thing that makes the series so powerful, I think, is the fact that she’s such an art lover and when they were filming her, she was seeing many of her favorite paintings for the first time in person, and you can tell that she’s very moved at times.