Art As Conversation

Sandberg, Art, and Asking Questions

I haven’t read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will To Lead (Knopf) yet, but it seems a nice segue from last week’s thought on “leaning in” to a conversation.  In her online discussion guide based on the book (, Sandberg asks a lot of questions for women to consider about leadership, gender roles, success, and raising children, among many others.

Sandberg’s goal in questioning was to begin a conversation. Today in his sermon my pastor challenged the congregation to ask questions about women in ministry and participate in the ensuing conversation, even if we didn’t agree.

Jesus asked a lot of questions.  “Who do you say that I am?”  “What is the greatest commandment?”  “And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?”  We think that if we can give the “right answer” we’re safe.  “Whew!  I’m a good spiritual test taker!”  I wonder if Jesus was less interested in the “correct” answers than he was in having a conversation that would challenge and change our thinking to align with His goals and purposes.

Art has a part to play in that conversation.  Art begins with asking a question.  What does hope look like?  How can I connect faith with an eagle, not soaring above me, but sitting in a swamp?   How do I write about auditory sensations, like Yeats’ “lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore” and use the sounds of language to draw an audience into the line?  When we ask the questions, we had better be ready to participate in the conversation, beginning with God first, then ourselves, then our audience.  Sounds like we’ll have some great dialogue.

2 thoughts on “Sandberg, Art, and Asking Questions

  1. I agree about your thoughts of the artist/audience relationship. We put our art “out there” and the audience is free to make their own connections. I think it takes a lot of courage to be an artist, to risk that, especially when we consider their reaction and how to respond, or not, at least inside ourselves.

  2. As artists, I think we have to be open to others’ interpretations of our work, and be willing to accept that the way people are moved is not always the way we expect–and that sometimes, what we intended is not what the viewer/reader takes away. I wrote once about not crying when my mother died until a week later, after we’d cleared out her house, put it on the market, and buried her. To me, it was about how overly businesslike and task-oriented I can be. And yet, an acquaintance saw it as me bottoming out spiritually at that moment because I finally had to deal with Mom being gone. Who was right? I don’t know.

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