Christian Art: Should It Be Any Different from Plain Old Art?

The angles of this questions, the directions it’s capable of going, the conclusions it carves avenues to are endless. So endless, I feel a bit overwhelmed, so I’ll limit myself to describing one particular encounter I’ve had with the debate. I’ll also talk more specifically about literature because it’s the art I’ve studied most and have spent the most time in.

A couple of years ago, I attended a conference at the invitation of a friend. I forget the actual name of the conference, but it was for Christian art and media professionals (neither of which I was at the time) and although the name didn’t stick with me, the content did. It was winter in England, an early morning after a late night. I had my puffy winter coat, hat and scarf on inside because the heating was out in the building. I sat in my folding chair willing myself to be warm and focused enough to listen to the speaker. His words turned out to be captivating enough. He began to speak about art and truth and how so many artists find themselves expressing dark themes like sadness, loss and loneliness and how–this is what turned my attention from rapidly rubbing my palms together for warmth to not being able to take my eyes off him–that’s ok.

And so my internal questioning began…

Christian art is supposed to bring light and hope, right? Well above that, he argued, Christians are to share truth. And sometimes the truth seems more sad, more dark, but truth is our mission. So portraying it through art is noble and as Christian as it gets.

This was helpful for me, someone who has always been strangely drawn to the works of people like Cormac McCarthy, whose books make you wonder if life is worth living at all, yet also very drawn to her faith. Knowing both loves could not only coexist but even compliment each other was a wonderful discovery.

I believe the speaker also addressed

-the issue of nudity and art (also ok) and the fine line between it and pornography.

-And our attempts at mimicking secular art in order to reach more people but inevitably “Christianizing” it, resulting in a slightly off quality.

The fact we even distinguish Christian art from art is something I hope we can eventually overcome.

No Comments

  1. Chris Strick on May 24, 2011 at 6:18 am

    So this posting struck me again, great topic Andrea. As a young man I traveled the world, my father was stationed in Germany and we traveled Europe for almost 7 years, going from country to country viewing the next exhibit, ruin, castle, landscape or museum I was blessed to be exposed to so much culture at a young age. As a young man I had a love for art, I would draw constantly, I wish I could find some of those school books now! I’ve been to countless museums and cities traveling either personally or when I was in public accounting and I’ve seen so much art and as a believer no matter who the artist was, I will confess, you can see God in all of them. In the perspective of eternal eyes the secular artist or “Christian” artist (only God knows the soul of a man) mimics the sentiments of pain and sorrow because this world is cursed and broken, our bodies our broken, they create that work because there is much pain and sorrow in this world. Just as the other side of the spectrum is true when you see something that is full of light and beauty. An artist marvels in wonder at something that inspires him to create and i would argue that no matter what it is, all art points to God or the need for God, if I put two amazing landscapes side by side, or even two pieces of work pointing to sorrow and pain, one painted by a Christian artist and the other by a secular artist I would tell you that both of that landscapes point to the glory of God as the creator of the world one was just painted with the knowledge of it, and both pieces on sorrow point to the need for God as the giver of peace, again one just painted with the knowledge of it. Art is simply art any painter can paint a piece, a sculpture can mold it, a photographer capture it in their lens, it all points to God who blessed them with their talents and longs to come into a relationship with them, the only difference is the heart of the person who created it and whether it has found that saving grace or not. As for the stuff on the other side of the “fine line” it’s simply not art, it is the sin of man.

    • Chris Strick on May 24, 2011 at 6:21 am

      I’ve got to start proofing my posts for misspellings or massive run-ons. I tend to ramble.

  2. Josh Deschenes on May 24, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Great post Andrea. I have always noticed an overall slimy feeling radiating from ‘Christian art’. Perhaps not enough artists bring truth? Or, is it possible that mostly summer Christians market Christian art?

  3. stephanie on May 24, 2011 at 10:10 am

    a GREAT book on this is “walking on water” by madeleine l’engle. i wish that i could remember more specifics from the book and share them here, but it’s one of those books that i completely soaked up and was changed by and can’t remember how or why.

  4. RickC on May 24, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Here is the URL for one of my favorite christian artists, Dr. He Qi.

    He probably could use a professional web site developer to smooth out his web site a bit but you can get to his art work by clicking on the He Qi gallery located in the center of his home page. He’s had a number of art shows around the world including one at the Dr. Billy Graham Museum at Wheaton College which I believe is in Iowa or perhaps Indiana.

    I love this guy’s work. Great stuff! One of my favorite is The Messiah. It is located in Gallery NT B.

    I think it was Dr. Chuck Swindoll that once said, our churches should be repositories of fine art. I completely agree especially if it is landscape art work. There are some incredible painters and photographers out there. Awe inspiring. The Kimbell and Amon Carter art museum’s in Fort Worth, Texas are well worth visiting if you want to see some good work of all sorts. The Denver Art Museum is incredibly fascinating and which is an all day experience and then some if you take to time to go through it all. And then take a good look at the photographic work by Ansel Adams and John Sexton, great stuff.

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