Archive for April, 2012

April 26, 2012

Good Art Versus Bad Art: What’s the Standard?

In our society, it is politically incorrect to label anything good or bad. Gone are the days of black and white morality, replaced by smudged lines between varied hues of gray. Anything goes, depending on who you are. It’s all relative and it’s all subjective.

With this in mind, it’s very difficult for me to address art in terms of good and bad. I desperately want it all to come back down to a matter of individual opinion. Since it isn’t that easy, I then want to develop a cookie cutter formula of what good art is. But I can’t do that either.

In order to discern good art from bad art in this age of relativity and subjectivity, I must continually dwell on the Supreme Artist, aligning my artistic thinking to His. Meditating on the Good One – the source of all things good – allows me to have God’s perspective on what good art is.

 God’s artist heart and art can be most readily found in His creation. Whether looking to the sky at planets, solar systems, constellations and galaxies or watching a radiant sunset or a violent storm, God’s artistic hand can be seen in all of it. This past weekend I took a mini-trip north to watch the sun set over Lake Texoma. There were no clouds to diffuse and refract the sunlight as with my favorite kind of sunset, but watching the sun and the sun’s reflection slowly meet as beams of light filtered through lush trees was breathtaking. In those moments from sunset to dusky darkness, I was powerfully aware that this was the same light that God created and called good (Genesis 1:16-18).  And if God calls something good, He must have a standard by which He applies that term.  I am convinced, then, that good cannot be relative and cannot be subjective, and that if I am going to talk about the goodness or badness of art, I must use His standards.

 Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – think (or meditate) on these things” (NKJV).  I would encourage you to look these qualities of things we should be dwelling on in a dictionary. You will find, as I did, that most of them have moral components.  To be moral simply means to be right. I’m going to venture out and say that good art will be moral: it will be genuine, excellent, desirable, powerful and commendable.

Good art – in fact, the very best art draws attention to and glorifies God. God’s art also does this. Psalm 19:1-4 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech or language where there voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world” (NKJV).  Good art does not know day, night or cultural boundaries, but intentionally or unintentionally good art (the best art) will point to the Supreme Artist.

Good art is intentional: there will always be a purpose behind good art. God also leads by example in this. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship (artisanship, craftsmanship) created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” In this verse, a believer’s life is a work of art, intended for good works, prepared by God. Good art is purposeful.

This is by no means a complete concept of good art. Even with a redeemed mind, I cannot begin to fathom God’s standard and concept of good. I know that whatever I perceive as good (even in His creation), He has so much better in store: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). I did want to introduce the idea, though, and in the coming weeks and months various artists will dig deeper into it.

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Lydia T. holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film from the University of North Texas. Her goal is to know Christ and make Him known among artists and in art.

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April 19, 2012

The Cause of Christ

A journal entry of mine from March 17, 2012:

Yesterday on my long drive home I decided to listen to NPR. I rarely listen to NPR or any talk radio for that matter, but I was tired of hearing the same music and commercials over and over. While I was listening, I probably heard half a dozen thought-provoking things. The story I found most interesting, however, was one about catoonists in China.

Apparently, many of these artists protest Communism through their art. These cartoons are not like the humorous cartoons readily available in U.S. newspapers which parody life and politics; these are thought-provoking endeavours to shed light on the realities of the Communist system. One of the pieces described portrayed a menacing fish luring a school of smaller fish with a glowing light. Mesmerized, the smaller fish do not realize they are about to be eaten.  Another artist featured creates animated shorts that depict occurrences in recent Chinese history allegorically.

The things described in this piece blew my mind. Almost the instant these artists post something to the internet, the artist’s account is deleted by internet service providers (imposing self-censorship to fend off government intrusion and censorship). These artists don’t give up though – they just create new accounts. (Some of them have had upwards of 300 accounts).

And so the question that comes to my mind is this: if an artist in China can interpret Communism intentionally through art to provoke critical thought, how much more can I create art that points people to Jesus Chirst? If an artist in China can persevere through censorship and continuous deleting for a secular cause, how much more can I persevere through no internet censorship in the spiritual battle taking place in artists and the arts? If an artist in China can alert people through art to a sinister agenda, how much more can I alert them through art to the most sinister agenda of them all?

Here’s the deal: how far are you willing to go for Christ? At FortyOne20 Ministries, we are not here to promote ourselves. We are here because we love Jesus and we love the people He created to be artists. We want to share His love with artists and we want to create art that is glorifying to Him.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Men do not light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

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Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film. NPR has become a regular staple in her listening diet since that fateful March afternoon. She loves Jesus. ‘Nuff said.

April 17, 2012

Cross-Examination: Profile of a Witch

Welcome to the very first ever artist’s pick! Like the articles, this feature will vary depending on the artist covering it.

 I’m Lydia. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television and Film with a concentration in film theory. So, you guessed it – when I do my artist’s pick, I will be talking about movies.  I’m a highly analytical person as well as being an artist, so a lot of my artist’s picks will be geared toward getting people to think critically about the art they are consuming. If you would rather not think about what you’re seeing and hearing, and just be entertained, it’s okay. No judgment.

Normally, I would be talking about one movie that I got something out, but today I’m going to talk about a recurring theme I’ve noticed in three movies that have been released in the last few years: Stardust, Tangled, and Mirror, Mirror.

So what exactly do an epic fantasy, animated depiction of a fairy tale, and an updated take on an old classic have in common?  These three women.

 

  

The women above are the villainesses of Stardust, Tangled, and Mirror, Mirror respectively. All three of them are intended to be specimens of physical beauty. All three of them are obsessed with physical beauty and use magical means to obtain said beauty.  And all three of them attempt to manipulate and control true beauty through cunning. In the end, when their magical means run out, all three of them essentially disintegrate in varying degrees of drama. These women are all prototypes of an age old archetype, modeling what a woman should not be.

 These particular female characters typically draw one of two responses from us: we either view these women as a cautionary and moral tale of what we should not be; or, we are angered that the character of manipulator, controller and cunning seeker of beauty always falls into the form of a female character.

 I find myself responding both ways at times. When I see these women on screen, I primarily see fallen womanhood. I see Eve, walking in the Garden of Eden, toying with the idea of something she thought was physically desirable, something that she thought would bring physical satisfaction, something that she thought would make her better. (As if God had not done the very best in creating her).  I see myself, trying to hold on to things I’d be better off without, trying to grab attention by having that competitive edge at work, striving, always striving to be somewhere other than where I’m at.  I see everything I often am, but don’t want to be.

 The problem I have with this response is that manipulation, control and cunning are not exclusive to women. You see, what the movies never reveal is the real enemy. It’s not a witch disguised as a beautiful woman (except maybe figuratively).  It’s the duo-threat of lust and fear instilled into people by the enemy of enemies: Satan.  He says, Don’t you see that? Wouldn’t you rather have that? You deserve it. Why won’t God give it to you? Doesn’t think you’re good enough, does He? He’s holding back on you. Why don’t you just take it? He says, If you don’t hold on with everything you have, you’re going to lose everything you’ve got. You need to take control of this situation before it spirals into something bigger than you can handle. The real manipulator, the real one grappling to control is Satan.

I really enjoyed watching all three of these movies. I own two of them and will probably buy the third when it is released. But do you know what I’d like to see more movies about? Redeemed womanhood.

Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be the one making them.

April 12, 2012

Reaching Artists on a College Campus

From birth, we as humans experience interaction. This instinctive connection begins with the physical proximity of mother to child and evolves as we mature, into more complex communication and community.

            As an artist myself, I have noted and experienced over the years that artists and art observers alike, have a deep understanding of connection. They feel the need to connect deeply, communicating through imagery, sounds, words, and motion, to name a few. Often these expressions are very emotion-driven and the people that create or experience them take in the art as a coping mechanism, a way of analyzing and understanding their lives and the lives of those around them. Art is an avenue for self-knowledge and shared knowledge of self.

            What artists who do not know God miss, is the aspect of praise that is intrinsic to expression and the immediate awareness of God’s knowledge of one’s heart. All creation holds within it the function (read, desire) to praise and exalt something larger than us. Though without a personal relationship with Christ, this expression becomes twisted, resulting often in a shame of the passion they have or a wall of pride in the fact that non-artists do not understand how they communicate.

            Artists and art observers alike, feel a deep need to express and share what they feel within themselves– truth, pain, joy, love, observation, analysis. Out in the “real world,” artists may feel isolated and unable to find an outlet through which to share life. College campuses, though fleeting, offer a unique and precious haven of expression. Though campuses’ art programs may not always exhibit nurturing tendencies, they do offer a forum for exploration and communal learning. College is a quick, concentrated time of growth and self-investigation- a time where those crying out to be known and to be listened to constantly surround us.

            My mere two years of being an art major have made it evident that there is a deep appreciation between peers in art classes. Group creation and critiques force students to interact with one another, to engage in the content and form of the art that surrounds them, and to make relational bonds. What Christian artists and art observers should feel tugging on their hearts is a desire to share the love of Christ within these relationships. The focus should be on God’s gift of creation and passion within us, rather than self-worship and ephemeral things. After all, art is a form of praise, a deeply personal and often bodily expression of worship, not an end product. Art is not the goal; it is a glimpse of God’s heart peaking out of the way he made our personalities and our spirits.  

            I recently started attending a meeting specifically for artists to talk about God and spirituality. The fellowship of like-minded, deep-feeling persons has shown me just how important it is to immerse oneself in community and what a blessing it is that God makes people able to relate to one another and communicate in similar ways. God is not bound by language and thus understands each one of us. He is sensitive to how He made us to receive and process information, and does not leave us to “do life” singularly.

            This group of artists is an unexpected bunch, consisting of people that would perhaps not spend time with one another if it were not for the core desire to connect views on our most integral personality traits. Expression and appreciation of beauty and the call that God gives us to reach out to one another create a bond that is so far beyond the normal classmate relationship.

            So often, my dad tells me that college is a special phase of life in which I have access to time and community, more so than is likely after school. I agree with him and I feel like my prayer lately should be that I would reach out to the people God has put around me, people who feel and connect in similar ways, despite my circumstances, despite my selfish feelings.

            This week I urge you to be aware, daily, of where you are and whom you are with. I encourage you to take notice of the connections you are making and how God is leading you. Take full advantage of college, take full advantage of the relationships you have the opportunity to build, and most importantly, seek God’s heart and you will be able to grow in understanding of the spirits of the artists and art observers you encounter. Communication with God will spill over into every other aspect of your life, creating opportunities to be bold in your interactions. God will grow you, when you seek him and His heart for creation.

            “You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the Lord, have created it.” Isaiah 45:8

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Kathleen is an art major in her second year at school. She really and truly is one of the most talented artists I know, but her passion for Jesus … Wow! It’s off the charts.

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April 5, 2012

So What’s The Big Deal?

Last week we tackled what we are doing by God’s grace at FortyOne20 Ministries. This week, we take a look at why…

Why the Artist?

Artists are unique people. For this reason, you cannot distinguish an artist by what he or she is wearing (as you could, say, a business person), nor that individual’s skin, eye, or hair color (as you could a specific race or heritage). You cannot hear it in his or her voice when talking, nor does it immediately come across in that individual’s personality. 

You see, artists are not surface people. Artists are deep thinkers and feelers. They inneract with their own thoughts and feelings about themselves and interact with their thoughts and feelings about the world around them. They are searching for meaning, worth and fulfillment. Artists are interpreters of deeper things, shapers of the intangible.

 Why the Art?

The expression of the artist’s inner/interaction and search produces the creative product our society calls art.  Art can manifest itself in a variety of forms – visual, musical, performance, and written to name a few.  Art is universal in that it is not unique to a particular culture, and yet an artist’s cultural background will play a role both in what and how he or she creates. As such, art can be used with anyone, anywhere. Being an expression of both tangible and intangible, art has the power to touch and stir the soul of an observer.

Why the Art-Observer?

Art-Observers are drawn to art because, like artists, they seek to satisfy their basic human need for meaning, worth, and fulfillment.  The desire to understand what it “all” means and to find our individual places within that larger context drives much of the art interpretation and theory in our society.  Attraction to art also stems from our human desire to sense things that can be called “good” or “beautiful.”

 Why Should All Three Be Taken On Together?

On either side of this broad spectrum we call art are lost and searching souls. God longs to use art and meaningful conversations about art and meaningful dialogue about between artists and art-observers to draw people to Himself. The implications of this are stunning!

 Why Meaning, Worth and Fulfillment?

Believers need to understand that this search for meaning, worth and fulfillment by artists and art-observers is God-orchestrated. Solomon says, “I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in His time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11).  Human beings are designed by God to yearn for and have close, personal fellowship with Him. (It’s sort of His Artist’s Mark on us). God is the Only One who can fill that yearning, though we often seek to fill it with human relationships, careers, alcohol and narcotics. These temporal idols fall horribly short of the hollow in the human heart intended to be filled by the Holy God of the universe.

In both its creation and observation, art can become a similar idol. Frustrated by their lack of satisfaction, artists can retreat further into their feelings and thoughts for inspiration, coming up emptier every time.  Art-Observers can use art as a form of escapism from discontented realities. In either case, art cannot and never was intended by God to take His place in the human heart. Used as a substitute for God, art will be less effective than a drop of water in a pitcher.

On the other hand, creation and observation of art within the context of glorifying God will be satisfying as artists and art-observers find meaning, worth, and fulfillment in Him.  Artists who derive their satisfaction from God will learn to sense creation the way He senses it and their art will reflect God’s heart. Art-Observers contented by God will be able to view art and artists the way He views them.

Imagine that. Imagine believing artists and art-observers rising up and initiating meaningful dialogue about art that points directly to God and His plan for the human race. Imagine unbelieving artists and art-observers finding the God of the universe who “fills every thing in every way” (Ephesians 1:23).

 Outreach taking place through art.

 You can stop imagining.

 It’s happening now.

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Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film from the University of North Texas. What she is really passionate about, however, is reaching artists with the good news of Jesus.