A few days ago, I came across a post called Of Books and Faith written by Beck at Frog and Toad are Still Friends ( The best blog name EVER to my mind.) She writes about how the Christian market is saturated with mediocre books. How few fiction authors there are who really grapple with the messiness of humanity from a Christian perspective. I agree with her whole-heartedly. The Christian life does not come with the lack of conflict and the happily-ever-after resolutions that I find in many books of this genre.
It's funny that I came across that post because I had been thinking similar thoughts about another form of Christian expression. Art. Christian art is often either poorly rendered or is just too pretty. It lacks creativity. It doesn't engage the mind. Remember when I made that long trek to Hobby Lobby for stencil supplies? That was where this idea started to form.
I spent a few minutes flipping through posters. Flip. Glowing Jesus in a meadow. Flip. Glowing Jesus surrounded by cherubs. Flip. Glowing Jesus and his glowing disciples at the Last Supper. With the exception of the Transfiguration, Jesus doesn't glow in the gospels. There is no record of any sort of radioactive material that could have caused the all the guests to light up at the Last Supper. Cherubim, not cherubs are given a mention in a book or two. There's a world of difference, you know. So there I am flipping through these posters and wondering...How come Jesus looks like a holy, western, Paul Bunyan? Couldn't the artist find a Mid-Eastern model? Surely there are skilled artists out there who can capture the humanity of Jesus. How about a tired Jesus? Or a Jesus who sweats? How about a painting of Jesus sleeping in the boat with the waves threatening impending doom? There's a message in that too. Why do we only focus on the miraculous? The calming of the storm? Somehow I think that these images would draw us closer to Him...make us more appreciative that He chose to walk upon this earth in human form.
It's not hopeless. There are some artists that I appreciate for their thoughtful contribution to this arena.
Thomas Cole was a nineteenth century landscape painter. He captured on canvas the stages of life in his four-picture series The Voyage of Life. (Scroll down on his Wikipedia page to view these paintings.) His work is skillful, reflective, and realistic. There is not another painter of realism who whose work I enjoy as much as Mr. Cole's. It takes hours to absorb the details and message of these four paintings. The kids and I studied them together about a year ago and we were all impressed by his creativity, attention to detail, and ability to speak through art. The Course of the Empire is another Cole series with a relevant message for our times.
I think the nature of modern art is a good medium for a Christian artist because one must approach it with a mind that is willing to wonder...to search for meaning. I have found two modern artists whose work I appreciate. Sally Brestin has a beautiful painting titled Aslan. There is a video on her website that explains the miracle of this work. It gives me chills every time I hear her tell the story. Ann at Genesis Project has created paintings that are representations of bringing order out of chaos. She draws on the first chapter in Genesis for inspiration. Ann paints with vivid colors and bold brush strokes. Appropriate choices for the creation story I think.
There's one more thing I would like to see. How about a photo series that captures the church of today reaching across cultural divides? Photos of middle class people worshipping in ghetto churches with the locals. Photos of blacks and whites serving together. Photos of grandmothers and grandfathers instructing the younger generations. The Church today needs to be shaken out of the comfortable slumber that it is in and see what the Church in the book of Acts really looked like... in today's terms. An artist has the power to challenge our thinking.