"All things grow more paradoxical as we approach the central truth" (G.K. Chesterton)
“There's a large strain of irony in our human affairs... Interwoven with our affairs is this wonderful spirit of irony which prevents us from ever being utterly and irretrievably serious, from being unaware of the mysterious nature of our existence.”
? Malcolm Muggeridge
, The End of Christendom
During this season of Lent I would like to "confect sacraments that unite your (my) journeys to those of your readers (my viewers)—and to the journey of the one who descended from air to earth, who was gashed and galled by our pettiness and vanity, only to rise again and ascend through the air, but not before he revealed through the gash in his side the burning heat of his sacred heart." Stalking the Spirit, Gregory Wolfe, editor of Image Magazine, Issue #67-- Fall 2010
I don't mean to suggest, as might a mystic, that we can't really know anything, that everything is mysterious, but simply that knowing what we do makes us acknowledge what we don't know, that the more I know myself and others the more I realize what mysterious bundle of paradoxes we are. Ultimately, only the One who made us truly knows us. And this is not surprising. He made us in His image, a finite representation of His infinite being which, after all our searching out of his nature and character, is incomprehensible, In Concise Theology, J.I Packer summarizes it like this: "God is great, says Scripture: greater than we can grasp. Theology states this by describing him as incomprehensible --- not in the sense that logic is somehow different for him from what it is for us, so that we cannot follow the workings of his mind at all, but in the sense that we can never understand him fully, just because he is infinite and we are finite." As his image-bearers, something of God's incomprehensibility is caught up in who we are. The natural response is humility and worship, not worship of man but of God who man bears to the world.
"Art is not a pleasure, a solace, or an amusement; art is a great matter. Art is an organ of human life, transmitting man's reasonable perception into feeling." - Leo Tolstoy
The question today is where are the few artists who are ready and willing to reaffirm the spiritual, and, more crucially, who can convince us that their art does so-- that it is a beacon of transcendence in dark materialistic times. How is an artist to keep alive the idea of transcendence in a world in which it has become trivial, passé, incomprehensible?
Revisiting The Spiritual In Art, Donald Kuspit Jan 04
It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process… We work in the dark, We do what we can, We give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.
Derek Webb Relevant Magazine January 29th, 2006
So now from this mad passion which made me take art for an idol and a king, I have learned the burden of error that it bore and what misfortunes spring from man's desire. The world's frivolities have robbed me of the time that I was given for reflecting upon God. Michaelangelo
Although logos is common to all, most people live1. p.77. Fr.2 FOUR QUARTETS, T.S. Eliot
as if they had a wisdom of their own.
"God created us to live with a single passion: to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives."
Most people slip by in life without a passion for God, spending their lives on trivial diversions, living for comfort and pleasure, ..." John Piper
Art teaches through metaphor, symbol, and story, not didactic prose. This is what Flannery O'Connor was getting at when she said that "the whole story is the meaning, because it is an experience, not an abstraction. A work of art is weakened when the artist merely uses the art as a foil for a message. In other words, art is prostituted and made to serve the message, ascribed value only to the extent it serves the message rather than being recognized as having value simply because it is good art. http://outwalking.typepad.com/out_walking/art_general/index.html
Redemption must assume the whole of reality and transform the very core of human selfhood. I see here one of the most important contributions of 20th-Century art to religion and churches. It shows how deep the human need for redemption is, and how many different facets of personal and collective human history still need to be healed through salvation from God. From Nolde's Entombment to Picasso's Guernica and Baldung's Last Supper, there is hardly an aspect of 20th-Century history that has not been pinpointed as wound, tragedy or open question. The great art of this century is permeated with the heaviness of human existence... Father Johann G. Roten
From Barlach to Baselitz; Religious Print Art of the 20th Century
The crisis of representation and identity is how the world meets the mind, not the eye. Bill Viola (Art in America 1998 p. 76)
Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it.
O.T. Prophet Jeremiah Jeremiah 6:16 (NRSV)
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
We make, but Thou art the creating core.
George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
The human immagination illumined by the Holy Spirit brings real joy and true myth together to picture reality.
CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory
The concept of beauty changed with the Enlightenment. The world was no longer considered the many-splendored form of God's creative genius but human artifact, that is, the sum total of human experimentation and productivity. The eschatological tribunal of this world, meaning the judgment of good and evil, was turned over to the forces of history and their thrust for progress and self-redemption in time. By the same token, the situation of art was changed. Its new role was to take the place of religion and offer temporary respite from the hardship of managing the earth; it was to become a moment or state of grace in a world without eschatology...Art is expelled from the realm of beauty and is relocated in that of truth - truth understood as personal truth, a way to come to terms with one's historical significance. Henceforth art's noblest role will be the exaltation of subjective consciousness and noble human destiny. The clash between the aesthetics of modernity and post-modernity in the present did not change this basic thrust. In both modernism and post-modernism the primary focus is on the subject. Where aestheticism of modernity attempts to reach the essence of self in ever more reductive forms of art, that of post-modernism leads the subject on to amalgamate with the world and absorb it in ogre-like fashion.
From Barlach to Baselitz; Religious Print Art of the 20th Century by Father Johann G. Roten
No one must be so ignorant as to close his or her eyes to the richness hidden in secular modern art just because some artists act like adolescents in VIP places or play the alphabet paint game for New York money. God's people must become aware of our guilt in the plight of those caught in cultural dead-ends... Which century were we Christians living in? Does Sallmann's "Head of Christ" serve as our family icon and show how out of date our consciousness is?
The suggestion that Christianity is a matter of both intellect and imagination, however, has fallen from popular favor. Many secularists see the whole business as fanciful, or, at best, as a comforting tale impossible to square with empirical truths. To literalist believers, imagination is beside the point: in their eyes, inerrant Scripture teaches humankind all it really needs to know.
Jon Meacham, Christianity & imagination NYT 12/25/05
Calvin Seerveld, Rainbows for the Fallen World: Modern Art and the Birth of a Culture
Christian artists today must understand the spirit of the age. They must realize that the protesters and revolutionaries are often fighting against the same evils in society as they are themselves. But they must also see the inadequacy of all answers that do not tackle the root of the problem.
H.R. Rookmaaker, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture
Good art takes us to a world we wouldn't have imagined ourselves. It does not leave us where it found us.
Ken Meyers, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes
In order to recover a sense of the beautiful, we must come to see it in connection with the two other great questions: "What is true?" and "What is good?" The Church, compromised by modernity, and in a hollow reaction to it, does little else aesthetically than manufacture pious kitsch…The only possible conclusion is that the Church has forgotten the holiness of her God.
Douglas Wilson, Angels in the Architecture
Kitsch is willing to be slick, it always glitters somehow, bewitching the simple with illusions of grandeur. Kitsch is emotionally cheap, whether it be expensive tinsel and Christmas tree baubles or a technically flawless, effulgent painting by Bouguereau...
Calvin Seerveld, Rainbows for a Fallen World
Portraits depict living images made by God and not by men. One can discern their dignity and value as having been created in the image of God... Where anyone has a portrait of Christ's humanity, that is just as fitting to have as to have other portraits.
No man who values originality will ever be original. But try to tell the truth as you see it, try to do any bit of work as well as can be done for the works sake, and what men can originality will come unsought.
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
The problem with religious kitsch is that its cuteness and self-gratifying nature can domesticate and thereby distort Biblical faith. Christianity is not a sickly, sweet religion… The anemic figurines of Jesus Christ are poor testimony to His deity and His lordship.
Gene Edward Veith, The State of the Arts
How does Word become matter?
How does it become a real live person?
Artist Joseph Beuys
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory...
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, ...He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.
The sorrow is that every soul is put out of house.
Katy Ryan, Horizons of Grace: Marilynne Robinson and Simone Weil
Philosophy and Literature - Volume 29, Number 2, October 2005, pp. 349-364 The Johns Hopkins University Press
What a Light Thing, This Stone,
Suzanne U. Clark, Sow's Ear Press, Abingdon, VA 1999
Sons of the River,
Norm Bomer, Canon Press, Moscow, ID 2000
Rainbows For the Fallen World / Aesthetic Life and Artistic Task,
Calvin Seerveld, Toronto Tuppence Press, 1980
Art and the Bible,
Francis A Schaeffer
All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture,
Kenneth A Meyers, Crossway Publ, 1989
Modern Art and the Death of a Culture,
H.R. Rookmaaker, Crossway Books, Wheaton Ill, 1994
The State of the Arts: From Bezalel to Mapplethorpe,
Gene Edward Veith, Crossway Books, 1991
Gene Edward Veith, Crossway, Wheaton Ill., 1994
The Liberated Imagination,
Leland Ryken, Harold Shaw Publ., Wheaton Ill., 1989
God Through the Looking Glass,
William David Spencer & Aida Besancon Spenser, Baker Books, 1998
Angels in the Architecture,
Douglas Jones/Douglas Wilson, Canon Press, Moscow ID 1998
The Word of God in English
Leland Ryken, Crossway Books, 2002
Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves
Calvin Seerveld, Piquant Press, 2000