Monday, April 30, 2007

Christianity and the Arts Conference and David Taylor

Check it out! Eugene Peterson, Jeremy Begbie and others will be in Austin, April 2008 for Transforming Culture: A Vision for the Church and the Arts.

Check out David Taylor's (of the excellent blog Diary of an Arts Pastor) announcement.

While your at it check out his previous post:
Beauty Better Save this Tired World:

"The ugliness of this world, ethical or commercial or otherwise, will not be reversed by mere abstention from it, the "Christ against culture" behavior of Richard Niebuhr's analysis. It will be turned around only by gracious, generous, muscular acts of beauty.

We must act beauty out in the stuff of our lives. We must act it out even if it means looking foolish, like the very serious joker, in the eyes of a worldly wise society. We must act beauty out in order to give it a chance to reverse the imbecilic, poisonous effects of sin."

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Spirit must scream
plummet down
like a bird of prey
and sit fierce
talons clenched
in your bleeding lips

and your words become
his Word
and his Words become
your words
that your speech
dead in the agony of self
might be resurrected
in self-extinction
-John Leax in Grace is Where I live (quoted in Eugene Peterson's the Jesus Way)

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Neil Gaiman on Lewis, Tolkien, and Chesterton

Due to excessive recommendation, I've started reading Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. Checkout his speech at the Mythopoeic Society on the influence of Lewis, Tolkien and Chesterton.

"Tolkien's words and sentences seemed like natural things, like rock formations or waterfalls, and wanting to write like Tolkien would have been, for me, like wanting to blossom like a cherry tree or climb a tree like a squirrel or rain like a thunderstorm. Chesterton was the complete opposite. I was always aware, reading Chesterton, that there was someone writing this who rejoiced in words, who deployed them on the page as an artist deploys his paints upon his palette. Behind every Chesterton sentence there was someone painting with words, and it seemed to me that at the end of any particularly good sentence or any perfectly-put paradox, you could hear the author, somewhere behind the scenes, giggling with delight"

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Art as Work

"There seems to be much confusion about what we mean when art . I have a recommendation. We eliminate the word art and replace it with work and develop the following descriptions.

  1. Work that goes beyond it's functional intention and moves us in deep ways we call great work.
  2. Work that is conceived and executed with elegance and rigor we call good work.
  3. Work that meets it's intended needs honestly and without pretense we call simply work.
  4. Everything else, the sad and shoddy stuff of daily life, can come under the heading of bad work.
This simple change will eliminate anxiety for thousands of people who worry about whether they are artist or not. But this is not the most significant consequence. More importunately, it can restore art to a central, useful activity in daily life--something for which we have been waiting for a long time"

- graphic designer and illustrator Milton Glaser in his book Art is Work

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Perhaps "a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver" because apples, gold, settings and silver were all created by a Word most fitly spoken.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Will beauty save the world? Solzhenitsyn on Dostoevsky

"So perhaps that ancient trinity of Truth, Goodness and Beauty is not simply an empty, faded formula as we thought in the days of our self-confident, materialistic youth? If the tops of these three trees converge, as the scholars maintained, but the too blatant, too direct stems of Truth and Goodness are crushed, cut down, not allowed through - then perhaps the fantastic, unpredictable, unexpected stems of Beauty will push through and soar TO THAT VERY SAME PLACE, and in so doing will fulfil the work of all three?

In that case Dostoevsky's remark, "Beauty will save the world", was not a careless phrase but a prophecy? After all HE was granted to see much, a man of fantastic illumination.

And in that case art, literature might really be able to help the world today?

It is the small insight which, over the years, I have succeeded in gaining into this matter that I shall attempt to lay before you here today."
-Alexandr Solzhenitsyn in his 1970 Nobel Prize Lecture

Why have I not read this short piece before?

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

quotes and links

...this is the ultimate aim of all making: to make a thing which does manifest spirit, which shows feeling, which makes God visible and shows us the ultimate meaning of existence, in the actual sticks and stones of the made thing.
-Christopher Alexander as quoted in
An Architectural Reflection on Sandra Schneiders and Philip Sheldrake’s Understanding of Christian Spirituality (This is what I was thinking about in these posts)

"The main problem with narrative in film is that when you become emotionally involved, it becomes difficult to see picture as picture. Of course, the laughing and crying and suspense can be a positive element, but it's oddly nonvisual and gradually destroys your capacity to see.
-- Michael Snow, speaking to Scott MacDonald, A Critical Cinema, Vol. 2"
Great discussion on this seeing and film at Jeffry Overstreet's blog:
Are movies increasing your "capacity to see"?

"It's his sincerity that gets Bruce Herman into trouble, the moderation of his temperament, the well roundedness of his craft. His forms are a delicate balance between abstract emotional expressions and realist figure drawings: "Some artists feel like they have to be in one of the two camps, as though there are only two—iconography or iconoclasm, realism or abstraction. And by choosing one side, they feel the need to put down the other.""

Bruce Herman: Painter of violent opposites

"The whole natural world, in all its glory and pain, needs redemption that will bring shalom. The world isn't divided into a sacred realm and a secular realm, with redemptive activity confined to the sacred zone. The whole world belongs to God, the whole world has fallen, and so the whole world needs to be redeemed--every last person, place, organization, and program; all 'rocks and trees and skies and seas'; in fact, "every square inch,' as Abraham Kuyper said. The whole creation is a 'theater for the mighty works of God,' first in creation and then in re-creation."

--Cornelis Plantinga - Engaging God's World (p. 96)"
-The Native Tourist

"But "Leaf by Niggle" is also about Tolkien's profoundly religious philosophy of Creation and Sub-creation. True Creation is the exclusive province of God, and those who aspire to Creation can only make echoes (good) or mockeries (evil) of truth. The Sub-creation of works that echo the true creations of God is one way that mortals honor God.

Niggle's yearnings after truth and beauty (God's creations) are echoed in his great painting; after death, Niggle is rewarded with the realization (the making-real) of his yearning. Or, if you prefer, Niggle's Tree always existed -- he simply echoed it in his art."

-Various Tolkien Fans on Leaf By Niggle (Tolkien's semi-autobiographical short story which deals with the relation of ethics and aethetics, as well as creation and subcreation.)

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digital art and the return to a pre-modern notion of art

by Arseny Gutov

This is an in-progress ramble I'm still rambling on.

From what I've seen the digital art communities like and, the digital art movement seems to return a return to 4 things that the 20th century art left to the past:

Story, Work, Science, and Realism

A return to art as primarily storytelling. Through-out history artist were visual storytellers, they illustrated stories from sacred texts, mythology, history and literature. Then suddenly in the 20th century, artist who continued this tradition were named, in a diminutive tone, mere illustrators. (As if Michaelangelo and Rembrandt were not) This is related to the 20th century notion that of Art with a capital A, and the Artist who was someone above the tasteless masses, and who somehow didn't take commissions. In the digital art world (partly because of it's close ties to illustration, concept art for the entertainment industry, and film) we see a return to storytelling. The images that fill books like Expose and win awards at CGtalk are almost always telling a story and usually doing an excellent job of it. This is related to the return to realism, we live in the world of history, the story of stories.

-Work/art/ craft

In the 20th century, art was elevated to Art, and so became something different then it really is, it was puffed up, self-serving, and introspective. It was too important to humble itself to tell a story, it refused to submit to the limits of visual reality. The artist was someone semi-divine, a Creator, not tolkien's sub-creator who must work with the already existing creation (story, nature, and annoying neighbors). And so the endless quest for originality. Artist of previous generations copied their masters and sought fidelity to the visual universe around them. Before the 20th century the artist was a workman, a craftsman, a paid laborer. True originality comes through limitation, true leadership is servanthood.

Digital art is a return to this. Jonathan Hardesty, now a classical non-digital painter, started his education in this atmosphere at After studying under some tradition classical painters he can trace his artistic heritage back to Leonardo da Vince. This isn't arrogance, it's true humility.

A return to acknowledging the scientific side of art, and using art to advance science,
-Topology Research
-medical illustration

the empirical world, which leads to realism


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