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Unexpected beauty

Unexpected beauty

Her face is striking, even seen through the window of a moving car: pale, beautiful, slightly anxious. I only catch a glimpse as we pass. Later, I have to walk back to get a better look.

I am in an industrial section of Denver, filled with small, blunt buildings and squat garages. If it weren’t for the art, it would be fair to call it an ugly neighborhood – except for the neighborhood part.


But the art changes everything. Clearly this was intentional and not a furtive, nighttime tagging by graffiti artists. The paintings are wonderfully diverse. Many are surreal, like scenes from a drug-induced dream. (Well, this is Colorado, after all.) The pale woman I noticed is the counterpoint: calm in her symmetry with only her sidelong glance to hint at her concern. Perhaps she feels uneasy with her company.

Today I am enjoying the human need for adding art to one’s surroundings. It’s not just seen in the murals. As we loaded up the truck with supplies for the event I’m working, I noticed the complicated brickwork on the building next to me. Raising my eyes, I saw a small, inset stained glass window, a delicate flourish set in a brick frame.

How lovely.


We have a fundamental need for beauty. It’s deeper than just ornamentation. It’s an act of reclamation, snatching back our surroundings from visual chaos or mind-numbing sameness. At an event last year, I talked with a woman who commissions murals for an urban community in New York City. She told me how one abandoned park, chained off because of the illegal activity going on in it, was restored as a center of family activity just by the addition of art to one of its walls. Beauty has the power to unify.

There is so much more to say about this – bringing in Bezalel, cave-painters and C.S. Lewis. But today, I am simply glad to discover such a striking face in an unexpected place.

And to enjoy her gift of delight.

Dear God, you are the source of all that is lovely. I thank you that you have wired us to crave beauty in all its forms – for it is one of the many magnetic pulls that draw us back to you. Make me increasingly aware of its presence around me that I may delight in you more and more.


Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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