Alana at A Kiss, A Hug and A Squeeze is married to Rich, a Christian artist and a Professor of Art. She sent him a copy of my post and he wrote such an excellent response to yesterday's post Artistic Expression and Faith that I couldn't bear to keep it hidden in the comment section. Please visit Rich's blog, The Shaper Fables. I think he intends to carry on this conversation there.
Here are Rich's words:
Aforementioned Husband here,
Kate, a very intriguing post. I too wryly smiled at the glowing Jesus remark. I teach at a Christian College in Missouri and I often have these discussions with my students. Unfortunately I believe that the depth of commercial Christian Visual Art is reflective of the spiritual depth of the average Christian. It is so sanitary and safe, an oversentimentalized unattainable ideal, irrelevant to unchurched individuals. We live in an A-Christian society. I was raised in a church. I get the visual flannel-board vocabulary and understand its nuances, but what about a person unfamiliar with its symbols or stories? How are the images and safe topics that wouldn't be frowned upon in a church building going to connect with an individual without a similar frame of reference? Good art and that includes good Christian art speaks to all humanity and not just a narrow slice of an evangelical population.
This last Easter, Christianity Today asked me to submit a piece of work for an Evangelical approach to the Stations of the Cross. Mine was for the thirteenth station, Jesus is Laid in the Tomb Viewers could leave comments, and [I will have to admit] that pieces that were not realistic were often viewed with disdain or downright accused of being anti-Christian. The opinions were extremely polar, either very positive or extremely negative. Few fell in the middle, but I was struck at the sheer ignorance and vehemence of a few of the negative comments, questioning one's faith because one was working in an abstract fashion.
[I am going to post sections of this on my blog with a picture as this is seemingly a blog post anyway]
The point is that Christians, like most individuals, just do not have a great education in Visual Art. That is not their fault, but nor should it be a hindrance in trying to understand and appreciate sophisticated and deep expressions of visual Christianity. After all, isn't that our witness and our evangelical gift? A gift given to we practitioners by the original and greatest Creator? In addition, I don't believe Christians should necessarily get outraged over secular art that is overtly anti-Christian. Chances are that the individuals creating the artwork have had a bad experience or two at the hands or lips of Christians.
Christianity would be great if it weren't for the Christians.
Can you, the reader, recall a time or two when you did not Do as Jesus Would Do?
We are all broken. I think too often we Christians tout our difference and separation from "those sinners." But we are sinners too. The only difference is that we are covered by a Divine Grace that many of "those sinners" don't even know about. To connect with them, they have to know that we are the same, but different. They have to know that we are broken too. The current mainstream Christian Visual Art is doing a WAY inadequate job of giving broken people anything to relate to.
Thank you Kate for posting this. Luckily there are MANY excellent Christian artists out there. CIVA [Christians in the Visual Arts] is a great organization that has many, but not all, great visual artists who are also Christian, and from many Christian traditions. [Civa.org] I am also the Gallery Director at my college and I have begun to exhibit Christian artists, not because they are Christians, but because they are great artists, revealing truths relevant to all humanity. The next show we have in September will feature Sandra Bowden. Google her and you will find an exceptionally talented artist. There is hope. People of my generation are tired of phoneys and as our purchasing power increases, so will the offerings of the mainstream Christian Commercial outlets.
Thank you for indulging me, and I hope that you all keep an open mind to non-representational expressions of faith as well as realism, but that is a whole 'nuther comment.—RWC