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Posts tagged art

Andy:
Andy Crouch, "The Gospel," from W. David O. Taylor, ed., For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts (Baker, 2010), p. 33

“Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Gen. 3:9). This garden, this original gift of culture, is not just a utilitarian source of nourishment. It is not just a vegetable garden, populated with a healthful array of plants that will provide the Creator’s RDA of nutrients to the dutiful fruit- and vegetable-eating human gardener. It is also a place of beauty. The trees of the garden are not just good for something. They are good simply in the beholding. They are beautiful.

But even more striking than the description of the vegetation is the least remarked-upon part of the whole story in Genesis 2. “The name of the first [river] is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there” (v. 12).

Why does the author indulge in this metallurgical excursion—with its digression within an excursion, “And the gold of that land is good”? Is this a treasure map for future readers? What is the point of this list of precious natural resources? Note that these are not primarily useful minerals or substances. The text does not say that the land of Havilah has good iron, granite, and bauxite. These are substances whose only real value is in their beauty. God has located the garden in a place where the natural explorations of its human cultivators will bring them into contact with substances that will invite the creation of beauty.

I owe to Makoto Fujimura the further observation that these substances are hidden. They are not like the low-hanging fruit of the garden’s trees. They are latent—lying below the surface of the very good world. Only by exploration and excavation will they be discovered. Only by experimentation and craftsmanship will their possibilities be disclosed. God has placed primordial humanity in a world that will only reach its full potential for beauty when it is cultivated, explored—where more goodness waits to be unearthed. The world is even better than it appears. The gold of that land is good.

Andy:
from W. David O. Taylor, ed., For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts (Baker, 2010), pp. 21–22

As a working pastor I found my tradition ambivalent, if not actively resistant, to the artistic life—to the imagination, the emotions, the senses, the material realm, and beauty. . . . If I were a gardener, I would say that my tradition offered me thin soil with little hope for a flourishing of the arts. At worst, it taught me to view the arts as ultimately expendable, a luxury far from the center of biblical Christianity. . . .

This book aims to redress this deficiency. It aims to inspire the church, in its life and mission, with an expansive vision for the arts. By “the arts” I mean at least music, dance, drama, poetry and other literary arts, visual arts, film, and architecture. This book seeks to show how the many parts of the landscape of church and art can hold together. . . .

For whom is this book written? It is written for pastors and artists along with lay leaders working in the context of the church. This book is for pastors who gather in cathedrals or in junior high cafeterias, for artists in the urban core or, as the case may be, out in the cornfields. It aims to inform our ecclesiology as Protestant Christians, regardless of our material or missional particulars.

My hope is that this book will also be of benefit to educators and seminary students, to critical observers of Christianity and the arts, and to all those who seek a common vocabulary to advance the discussion of the church’s mission of artmaking.

Nate:
from "Aesthetics and Justice," by Brian Phillips, The Run of Play, 20 April 2010 :: video via YouTube

What that means is that, if we care about the sport as a story, we have to hope that the people in charge of running it do their jobs just badly enough to ensure that the Hand of God is possible. The wider the circle within which you’re willing to see the game as aesthetic, in other words, the more you wind up relying on chance and accident. If soccer is only a game—that is, aesthetic only in the most limited and technical sense—then it can achieve perfection as a deliberate design or as a successfully realized intention. If it’s a story—that is, aesthetic in a more primary sense—it can’t. If you want a masterpiece, the artist has to screw up. The lamest defense of bad refereeing in the world is “human error is part of the game.” It isn’t; but it is certainly, and problematically, part of the story.

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from New World Order," featuring map art by Shannon Rankin, BLDGBLOG, 31 March 2010
Nate:
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"Street Musicians," by William H. Johnson, serigraph on paper, c.1940, from William H. Johnson's World on Paper, Smithsonian/Flickr
Nate:
Nate:
from "Portion Sizes in 'Last Supper' Paintings Grew Over Time," by Andrea Thompson, LiveScience, 23 March 2010 :: via kottke.org

Wansink teamed up with his brother Craig Wansink, a religious studies professor at Virginia Wesleyan College, to look at how portion sizes have changed over time by examining the food depicted in 52 of the most famous paintings of the scene from the Last Supper.

“As the most famously depicted dinner of all time, the Last Supper is ideally suited for review,” Craig Wansink said.

From the 52 paintings, which date between 1000 and 2000 A.D., the sizes of loaves of bread, main dishes and plates were calculated with the aid of a computer program that could scan the items and rotate them in a way that allowed them to be measured. To account for different proportions in paintings, the sizes of the food were compared to the sizes of the human heads in the paintings.

The researchers’ analysis showed that portion sizes of main courses (usually eel, lamb and pork) depicted in the paintings grew by 69 percent over time, while plate size grew by 66 percent and bread size grew by 23 percent.

Nate:
from "Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy," by Steve Rubenstein, SFGate.com, 26 February 2010 :: via The Morning News

About the same time that Ibnale was handing out umbrellas, Brett Lockspeiser took $100 worth of dollar bills to the 16th Street Mission BART Station and held up a sign.

“I will give you $1 for you to give to someone else,” the sign said. Throughout the evening rush, Lockspeiser stood in the station, trying to give away dollar bills.

“Everyone though I was trying to scam them,” he said. “They wanted to know what I was up to. I told them they just had to promise to give the $1 to someone else.”

After three hours, Lockspeiser had managed to give away only $52. One passer-by did not take the $1 but, suspecting that Lockspeiser was down and out, handed him a pair of socks.

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from "Axe Cop: Episode 1," by Malachai and Ethan Nicolle, Episodes, 2009–2010 :: via GeekDad
Nate:
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"Rag Rug," by Betsy Timmer, at Signs of Life Gallery, Lawrence, KS, through 14 January 2010
Christy:
by Christy Tennant for Culture Making

This is the second of three posts from this site’s current contributors, about our favorite books, music, and movies of 2009—not necessarily made in 2009, but consumed, pondered, enjoyed and treasured by each of us during the past year. Yesterday we heard from Nate Barksdale; tomorrow we’ll close the series with Andy Crouch’s recommendations.

Two of the movies that moved me most in 2009 deal with human suffering and hope in the midst of despair: Courtney Hunt’s Frozen River, a haunting story of survival and the sometimes blurry lines between right and wrong, and Scott Blanding/Brad LaBriola/Greg Heller’s documentary, Women in War Zones, which tells the story of two survivors of sexual violence in the Congo. I was also surprisingly touched by Kenny Ortega’s This is It, a film documenting the last few months of Michael Jackson’s life, rehumanizing The Gloved One and presenting him as the phenomenally talented, humble and generous, albeit broken, entertainer he was.

After years of reading mostly non-fiction, I read several novels in 2009 that had a tremendous impact on me. One was My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok. Its insight into the mind of a visual artist was very helpful to me as someone who is trying to understand how visual artists see the world. I also appreciated the author’s profound insight into Christ’s crucifixion from the perspective of a Hasidic Jew. Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead was very moving to me on several levels, not the least of which was the way the main character was awakened by tender eros in his twilight years. But the book I read in 2009 that I was most stirred by was actually an unpublished manuscript by a very promising author practicing law near the University of Virginia. Corban Addison’s A Walk Across the Sun deals with the issue of human trafficking in both the US and India. It was the first time in a while I have had serious trouble putting a book down; I was riveted from page one.

My non-fiction treasures of 2009 include Michael Card’s A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament, Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Art in Action, Dan Siedell’s God in the Gallery, Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (a pastorally-guided exploration up the Psalms of Ascents), and Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, required reading at International Arts Movement as we seek to approach the arts not in terms of commodity, but rather in terms of gift.

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"Characters for an Epic Tale," limited edition print, by Tom Gauld, buenaventura press, 17 November 2009 :: via Boing Boing
Nate:
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"Shapeshifter," white polypropylene plastic chairs (2000), by Brian Jungen, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa :: via Brainiac
Nate:
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Georges Rouault, "Automne" (1946), from "Soliloquies," an exhibition of work by Makoto Fujimura and Georges Rouault, at Dillon Gallery through 24 December 2009
Christy:

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"Ljósið," by Ólafur Arnalds, from the album Found Songs, 2009 :: via My Contracrostipunctus
Christy:

Art is a lie which makes us realize the truth.

—Pablo Picasso, quoted in My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

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from "The Gospel According to Tacoma, June 2007," Beautiful Angle
Andy:
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"Highland Light" (North Truro, Massachusetts), watercolor over graphite on rough white wove paper, 1930, by Edward Hopper, Harvard Art Museum :: via "Edward Hopper's Cape Cod: Then and Now," NYTimes.com, 10 August 2009
Nate:
Nate:
from "The Importance of Being Unimportant," by Shane McAdams, The Brooklyn Rail, September 2009 :: via kottke.org

[Dave] Hickey’s essay “Frivolity and Unction” is an assault against “puritanical,” non-profit interests in the 1990s that aimed to sanctify the practice of artmaking, leaving it immune to real critical appraisal. He says in the essay that art would benefit from being considered a “bad, silly and frivolous thing to do,” for, if we could admit that art was frivolous, it could fail, and thus, by contrast, be allowed to succeed in ways sacred objects aren’t. The essay is a staple of art criticism courses and is usually met with fierce resistance, as it ruffles most people’s sense of what’s proper too much to actually listen to what Hickey is saying. By “silly, bad and frivolous,” he means art should be unimportant enough to be criticized. Ascribing general terms like “silly” and “frivolous” might seem belittling, but they should be distinguished from more active and specific terms about how art directly communicates, such as “unmoving” or “ineffective.” “Art” can be unimportant and still allow for the experience of a work of art to be life-changing. I value the memories I have of listening to baseball games on my grandparents’ porch, but Baseball, as a concept, remains entirely unimportant. Such concepts as baseball, art, and Hickey’s example of rock and roll, are wholly unimportant except for the experiences they foster and the history to which they contribute.

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"Austin, Texas," oil on canvas, 5x6', by Christa Palazzolo :: via FFFFOUND!
Nate:
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"HIV," 22cm, from the sculpture series Glass Microbiology, by Luke Jerram Smithfield Gallery, London, 22 September–9 October 2009 :: via Freakonomics Blog
Nate: