Taking my children to the Louvre this summer was a magnificent experience. It is so amazing to see what artists can create and envision in the raw elements. They were initially excited to see the Mona Lisa, but after discovering more of the treasures that surrounded them they loved taking in all the richness and beauty of everything.
In a book written by Benjamin and Meredith Martinez, they describe the rarest and most costly marble, white Carrara. As a Sculptor, it was very desirable to work with this expensive material.
I quote from the authors, “Sculpting in marble was neither fast nor easy. In addition to innate talent, it required both careful analysis and tedious, backbreaking work. The artist would have to study the block of marble to determine its essential nature. He would then need to discover the direction of the grain and ascertain the presence of any flaws. He had to make careful and precise plans and drawings which were in accord with the structure of the marble itself. Then, with consummate care, he would begin to chip off the superfluous marble, layer by layer, until he revealed the form he had envisioned.
“Any mistake could be disastrous. If the sculptor went against the grain he could crack the marble; if he struck a blow with too much force he could mash the crystals beneath the surface, creating holes and ruining the sculpture. This seldom happened with the greatest of sculptors, who labored with infinite care and supreme sensitivity. Those with lesser talent and little patience, however, would occasionally be confronted with such a disaster. Rather than admit their blunder and lose their commission, some would resort to subterfuge.
“Soft, white wax, skillfully applied, could usually disguise the damage. In outward appearance the sculpture appeared to be flawless and the defect was seldom discovered until well after the work had been accepted and the commission paid. As the practice became more common, patrons of the arts became more discerning. They refused to accept a piece of marble statuary until after a careful examination had been made to ensure that it was undamaged and contained no wax-covered flaws. The highest standard of excellence for works of white Carrara marble came to include the distinction, ‘sine cere,’ meaning ‘without wax.’
“Eventually these two words merged to become a single word, ‘sincere,’ meaning ‘pure, unadulterated, whole, intact, uninjured.’ When the word was used to refer to marble works of art, the emphasis was on the fundamental wholeness of the statue, not just on its superficial or outward appearance.
“The statue was expected to be good, not just to look good.”
As of yet I have no talent in sculpting nor do I plan in the near future to develop that talent. But the parallel I can draw about being sincere is amazing.
Sometimes in my efforts to accomplish great tasks I lose my patience, rush the process, do not examine the grain, apply too much pressure and cracks begin to form. I am learning that true peace and joy come in the honest analysis of the creation and process.
Often I have not noticed or been aware of the cracks in the sculpture. Quietly, analyzing, examining, planning and evaluating can help me return to the Master who can quietly critique my technique and help me become as skilled as He.
I know that to create a sculpture using precious materials takes patience, study, and planning. I need to be teachable and always aware of the obstacles that could make my project insincere. If I can admit the cracks and realize the preciousness of the work I am doing, then I will be able to create sincere sculptures.
Benjamin Martinez and Meredith Martinez, “The Primacy of Principles,” in 10 Principles of Leadership Power (1992).