This past week I was delighted to attend the Denim Day Art Auction to support our local Rape Crisis Center. A number of local artists generously put to use their talents in a concerted effort to help fund the vital work of the crisis center here in the Las Vegas Valley.
In keeping with the Denim Day theme, clever artists utilized denim to create a cornucopia of beautiful works. Paintings, jewelry, sculptures, purses, flowerpots, photography and more. All beautiful. All inspiring.
Some of the artists used fresh, new denim to create the lovely pieces they donated, and others used denim that clearly had been…oh…shall we say…well-loved? Either way, it was obvious that each benevolent artist is enviably creative and skilled.
I confess that while my eyes were drawn to each piece equally, my heart was drawn more forcefully to those pieces that were built utilizing denim which had been used, battered, torn, faded, and even possibly (prior to being transformed by the artist) cast aside because it had become “useless.”
I’m not an art expert. Truth be told, I’m not an anything expert. I do happen to be an appreciator of beauty in this world. And I saw a lot of beauty at that art auction. Some of which came in ways that I did not expect.
The beauty of the pieces made with old, used denim was far beyond just what could be seen with the eyes. The deeper, richer beauty was that the creators of these pieces had seen beyond the current, scarred condition of a pair of old jeans. Yet they did not intend to erase the scars and rips and stains in an effort to return them to their original condition in an attempt to forget all the “life” each pair of jeans had endured.
No. They looked at the messy jeans and saw beauty. Not the new, perfect beauty we shell out $100 a pair for at our local high dollar jean store, nor the beauty of what those jeans would eventually become in their skillful hands. They deemed the old material worthy of their talent because they saw the wonderful color and texture and character that comes from surviving doing what jeans do: being worn, spilled on, thrown in the hamper, battered about in the washer and dryer, sometimes being ripped, sometimes being thrown to the back of the closet and forgotten for a season.
Then, after looking at the beautiful though beat up jeans, the artists chose to transform them into something of a different kind of beauty. A new usefulness. A new chance at living a second life. Possibly an even better life.
I used to roll my eyes in irritated disbelief when I would hear well-meaning folks utter the words, “There is beauty in broken.” I was convinced to the very depths of my soul that only a fresh, scar free, perfectly healthy, never wounded, privileged, completely whole, never-been-broken idiot could possible believe that there could ever be beauty in broken! Broken is not fun. Broken hurts!
But, like the artist who sees beauty in an old piece of denim, I have come to believe there is beauty in broken. When I survive being broken – and broken eventually happens to most of us in one form or another – I am beautiful. Whether my brand of broken is self-inflected or foisted upon me by another, it opens my eyes to the pain of those around me. That awakens my compassion for others and kills my desire to judge them. When I’m battered and sad and tired, I can choose to keep trying. That means I’m brave. When I reach the end of me, I realize I must reach out to others for help. That makes me hopeful and gives me human connection. I can sit right in the middle of all my broken and know that although I have some wicked scars, I have survived! That means I’m strong. And all of that, to me, looks like beauty in broken.
And just like the old jeans, once I’ve been broken I get a chance for a second life. A do-over. A start again. A make-it-even-better. Often a new life looks quite different from the old one. Sometimes it’s even better.