Christian Art and Aesthetics

Does “good” art have to be beautiful? Here is an interesting video about the need for real life to be reflected in the realm of Christian arts in terms of music and visual art.

The video below accompanied an article on the Gospel Coalition Website and brings up some interesting issues regarding how Christian arts are and should be changing. Some feel the tone is pompous, and I feel that their complaint is a bit unfounded. Judge for yourself.

I do have a few thoughts after watching:

I do have to disagree with their opinion that too much Christian music is happily fake and too much like the unrealistically beautiful Thomas Kinkade paintings. Maybe I listen to a different grouping of music than they do but I tell you, a lot of what I hear is brokenness in music right now. The CCM artists are getting very real. Just listen to Blessings by Laura Story. There are hundreds of songs (maybe thousands) that also give the impression that the writer has come through a difficult time of life, and they’re not afraid to sing about it. Take “Down Here’s” newest album, or half of the songs from Jeremy Camp’s Unplugged album that share brokenness and pain are where we learn about God more, become stronger and more solid in belief in Him.

This song has been so powerful in my life. Jeremy Camp’s wife died of cancer after 4 months of marriage. He can still write a song about being in the greatest pain of life yet still believing in what God has promised.

I also say we need balance. They are saying there’s not enough real life. Well, for those who are going through the trenches, yes we need to hear the songs like Blessings, but we also desperately need the songs that give real hope. The songs that take our focus off our situation and bring us to the bigger picture of Who we serve, what He is like, and what our long term future holds. It’s necessary for daily survival. We need the songs that Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman are writing because we need relief from our situation. Not just fluffy happiness, but real relief that points us to our Creator and is a genuine comfort.

Yes, there needs to be a recognition that we are destitute and life isn’t perfect. Right now life is so painful I can’t take in all the facets in one glance and the days that I try to, my tears fall all day long and my body hurts. . .BUT I have a Savior and He is walking with me, helping me through, and I have His promises to lean on when I’m so distraught that my hands shake. There’s a difference between celebrating the truth of God in my life and putting on a fake front that everything is okay.

I’m saying that we need both, and in the music industry of CCM, we certainly have both.

As for Thomas Kinkade? As an artist, I agree with their perception of the artist’s opinion of him. But as a Christian? Maybe people’s lives are so difficult they need the warm glow for some relief. Again, balance.

Yes, the Psalms are full of David simply crying out to God in distress, but you can pretty much count on David in the last few verses to remind himself Who God is, and why he can be joyful even though the tears are flowing.

Frightening Exhibition

So today is the day. The time of year we love to be scared, grossed out, and horrified is at its peak. But I must say that I’ve been feeling uneasy about something long before this year’s Halloween came around.

The Creeps ©Rebecca Finch

The Creeps ©Rebecca Finch

As October approached this year, I became aware that there is a frightening trend that is not confined to the autumn season but exists all year round. That unseen but very real troubling impression, my friends, is the intimidation and confusion that most people feel when they venture into the art world.

Perhaps you can identify with comedian Brian Regan as he fumbles through a fearful conversation about art.

I have to believe there’s a bit of truth here.

The Willies ©Rebecca Finch
The Willies ©Rebecca Finch

People are drawn to art because they see something that appeals to them, but a lot of the time there is a gap between seeing something we enjoy and understanding it, the process or even the person who has created the work and that tends to make people uncomfortable. We are afraid to ask.

Even as an artist I have felt this highbrowed distance that is created by beautiful but cold galleries, eccentric artists with even more eccentric lifestyles, titles that give no explanation, elitist curators or observers who use big words, talk about unfamiliar artists and art movements and seem to enjoy leaving the general public in a fog when it comes to art.

I resent this behavior because it pushes people away from art. I can feel it even as an artist and am aware when talking to seemingly cowering non-artists about art. I love to explain things and put them at ease about what they’re seeing. I enjoy telling a story behind why an artist painted a piece, what might be going on in their lives at the time, or why a certain painting is seen as important. I love to let them know that it’s okay that they don’t know a lot about art. This invites everyone to ask questions and learn.

 I polled some of my Facebook fans to see if I was correct in my feelings and got a few interesting responses to the question, “Are you intimidated by the art world?”

The Chills ©Rebecca Finch

The Chills ©Rebecca Finch

“I guess I am a little intimidated but mostly because I have very very very little artistic ability”

“How do I know what is “good” art? Is it “bad” art just because it doesn’t appeal to me?”

“A lot of art seems to me to be the emperors new clothes. There isn’t really anything to it but there is a big deal made of it. If you don’t understand it it’s because you aren’t smart, or educated enough. Seems to me good art ought to be self evident.”

“I don’t “get” all of it, but I figure that’s ok”

“As a non-artist, I am always intimidated by the art world. Elitist mindsets prevent non-artists from experiencing what I believe was God’s unique intent for us to emulate (or watch someone else emulate) the most pure example of humankind relating to His Creation: ART! (Disclaimer: not every person is an elitist)”

Some who responded explained feeling intimidated after seeing art they found beautiful, but were told the artist’s technique is not so stellar . . . technique? What does that mean? Now we have a viewer who unfortunately will second guess their own opinion of what they enjoy.

Some felt that the art world sets up rules for what is acceptable art – sort of an elitist clique.

Personally, I feel there is room for compromise on both sides. I completely understand the non-artist who loves looking at art or is interested in it, however fears their opinion is incorrect, that they don’t know enough information, or it’s a world that they can never be a part of.  However, at the same time, we who feel intimidated by certain aspects of art should still reach out for knowledge if there is a desire to enjoy art more.

Heebie-jeebies ©Rebecca Finch

Heebie-jeebies ©Rebecca Finch

Artists, museums and galleries, let’s be more open, friendly, inviting and informative to the general masses and you just might get more people walking through your doors.

If you fear the art world, don’t understand it or resent it, stick with me. I would love to be your guide to experiencing beautiful and thought provoking art. You will always find with me a desire to explain things so that they can be understood and enjoyed.

Goose Bumps ©Rebecca Finch

Goose Bumps ©Rebecca Finch

So pull out your flashlight, put the garlic around your neck, get out the wooden stake and your silver bullets, walk past the ghoulish display of elitism and come with me into the exhilarating world of art and fear no more!

Want more? Take some action.

•Check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website. View their media page for interesting videos about art. The interactive section is pretty fun, too.  Choose to not be intimidated. Just enjoy!

Contact me with any questions about art and I may just write a blog about it.

Future Plans:

I have many plans for the future of this blog which include posts on the concerns and feelings specifically expressed by the quotes here, an easy to understand group of blogs on art history, a continued stream on my Facebook page of what I feel is beautiful, and my commitment to make you feel completely comfortable where you’re at while pushing you to learn and experience more.  Stay tuned here and on Facebook to beautify your life.

Tragic Art – controversial healing for 9/11

The dilemma of expressive art on the still raw emotion of 9/11

I recently stumbled on an article entitled Terrible Beauty written just before the September 11th ten year anniversary, and even though it’s a little old, I’d still like to bring it here to this blog. The article visits the difficulty of presenting art, photography, and memorabilia to the public due to the wide array of reactions that may result. This is not a mere matter such as whether or not someone appreciated an artists’ work, it is however a potentially explosive subject because the event has so deeply devastated and changed Americans.

Unidentified Woman

Unidentified Woman ©Sarah Charlesworth 1980, created 21 years before 9/11, this piece is a prime example of art that can unintentionally be connected to 9/11 events.

In the article,   notes “For New York museums, it’s not clear whether creating content related to the anniversary of 9/11 is a responsibility, an opportunity, or an invitation to inevitable and unwanted controversy.” Some art can appear insensitive and have been removed from public display, for example, Eric Fischl’s Tumbling Woman was quickly excluded from the Rockefeller Center. In these cases, “priorities of patriotism, as well as the moral rights of victims and their families, trumped freedom of expression.”

The Museum of Modern Art in Long Island, NY currently has an entire floor devoted to September 11. The catch is that most of the installations were created before the September attacks, however they surprisingly bring on a connection to the attacks due to their unintentional, however iconic nature.

Francesc Torres, a professional photographer who documented the wreckage brought to a hangar at JFK,  grappled with concerns that his photography of 9/11 events would appear too much like art. His photographs can be found in the National Geographic book, Memory Remains.

“The chronicle in the official book of the 9/11 Memorial, A Place of Remembrance (National Geographic), shows, as if any more proof were needed, how sensitive, delicate, and fraught each object, image, and symbol of the attacks remains.”

A Place of Remembrance

As I read this article I am unsure that we will find the right answer for the public as a whole. It seems that we are teetering on a necessary tightrope of expression to heal and remember but there is always the danger of being offensive, insensitive, and exploitive.

Where is the balance? I believe it’s in the individual to either attend the exhibitions, memorials,  sift through the books if that is what will help them and stay away if it is offensive. Within reason and sensitivity, I believe that artistic expression is necessary especially if the artist themselves is honestly grieving and a journey through 9/11 art creation will genuinely be a healing experience for them. If this is the case, I’m not sure if the tragedy can be depicted in a hurtful offensive way.

Memory Remains The bottom line is, people are still grieving and as grief takes on many forms people are compelled to behave in different ways. What might help one person heal may also send another into a crippling tailspin of despair. We all need to be sensitive, without being too sensitive. Together, in the remembering, crying, and telling of their stories whatever form that may take, America will slowly begin to heal. I believe it has only begun.

Want more?

Visit the official 9/11 memorial website
Comment to share your opinion on this blog or my Facebook Page.