Yesterday I said goodbye to an old friend. We’ve actually only met a month ago, but I feel as if I’ve known him all my life. I’ve spent a lot of time in his company, courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, since the beginning of the year. I’m speaking of course of Gustave Baumann, whose recent art exhibit at the IMA I have frequented for more visits than I care to admit. His exhibit closed today and I’m both devastated that his work is now hidden back in the archives and also deeply grateful that I’ve had a chance to see and love it in my lifetime. The exhibit was made even more special by the addition of an artist in residence who worked on her own woodcuts during the museum hours, so you could see the process first-hand, and also hosted free workshops so the guests could try their hand at Baumann’s craft. During the last few days of the exhibit, the woodcut for the workshop was Baumann’s own mark.
He created his mark as a nod to the Odd Fellows fraternal organization that he belonged to in Nashville, In. He changed the well-known heart-in-hand symbol to a handprint inside a heart and used this mark exclusively from 1918 onward. It was a personal reminder of his life’s motto: “whatever the hand finds to do, the heart should go forth in unison.”
Long before, the Apostle Paul had shared the same truth – that a life without love meant nothing. If what you do is independent of your heart, it is a waste of time, no matter how noble your actions might be. Work without love is just business, charity without love is just penance, knowledge without love is just pride, faith without love is just self-righteousness. But love without action is just as useless and a waste. Baumann understood that the two must be in concert. You can certainly tell that he lived this motto in his art, creating breathtaking scenes of beauty that allowed you a window into his soul. He realized that your actions must be informed by a heart of love to live a full life. And his life was full – he had a wonderful family, built and decorated his home all from scratch, made toys for his daughter, invested in his community, opened his home to friends, and left a legacy of a rich, beautiful life.
While I went to the exhibit the first time because I was drawn to his art, by the time the exhibit was over, I’d come to understand that his life was the true masterpiece. All the art on the wall was reflection of the gentle artist who found contented joy in every ordinary miracle.
Blessings to you,