Books & Bibliography and Art, Beauty, Interpretation
Makoto Fujimura (NavPress: Feb 2009), 176 pages.
Makoto Fujimura was born in 1960 in Boston, Massachusetts. Educated bi-culturally between the US and Japan, Fujimura graduated from Bucknell University in 1983, and received an M.F.A. from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music with a Japanese Governmental Scholarship in 1989. His thesis painting was purchased by the university and he was invited to study in the Japanese Painting Doctorate program, a first for an outsider to this prestigious traditional program. It was during the six and a half years of studying in Japan that Fujimura began to assimilate the combinations of abstract expressionism explored in the US with the traditional Japanese art of Nihonga.
Daniel A. Siedell (Baker Academic: Oct 1, 2008), 192 pages.
Siedell likens Christians' encounter with modern and contemporary fine art to St. Paul's discovery of the altar to an unknown god on Mars Hill (Acts 17:23). Responding to those who have called for a separate Christian art (particularly Francis Schaeffer and H.R. Rookmaaker), he strives to reveal what modern art is only able to point to, not to name. Siedell uses his in-depth knowledge as former art curator and current assistant professor of art history at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to argue that perceptions of this legitimate cultural practice can be nourished by a robust Nicene Christianity. These disparate essays tackle subjects both ambitious (a history of modern art) and esoteric (a single work by artist Enrique Martínez Celaya; the conflict between art critics Harold Rosenberg and Clement Greenberg). Siedell's love of contemporary art is obvious, but his sometimes abstruse writing doesn't always clarify his formidable subject; indeed, it may reinforce some Christians' view of modern art as unapproachable. His primary audience is clearly art specialists, whether students or professionals; Siedell's interesting thesis may not reach the larger audience it deserves.
Andy Crouch (IVP Books: Aug 2008), 284 pages.
It is not enough to condemn culture. Nor is it sufficient merely to critique culture or to copy culture. Most of the time, we just consume culture. But the only way to change culture is to create culture. Andy Crouch unleashes a stirring manifesto calling Christians to be culture makers. For too long, Christians have had an insufficient view of culture and have waged misguided "culture wars." But we must reclaim the cultural mandate to be the creative cultivators that God designed us to be. Culture is what we make of the world, both in creating cultural artifacts as well as in making sense of the world around us. By making chairs and omelets, languages and laws, we participate in the good work of culture making. Crouch unpacks the complexities of how culture works and gives us tools for cultivating and creating culture. He navigates the dynamics of cultural change and probes the role and efficacy of our various cultural gestures and postures. Keen biblical exposition demonstrates that creating culture is central to the whole scriptural narrative, the ministry of Jesus and the call to the church. He guards against naive assumptions about "changing the world," but points us to hopeful examples from church history and contemporary society of how culture is made and shaped. Ultimately, our culture making is done in partnership with God's own making and transforming of culture. A model of his premise, this landmark book is sure to be a rallying cry for a new generation of culturally creative Christians. Discover your calling and join the culture makers. ~ Product Description
The Beauty of the Cross The Passion of Christ in Theology and the Arts from the Catacombs to the Eve of the Renaissance
Richard Viladesau (Oxford University Press: Mar 27, 2008), 240 pages.
From the earliest period of its existence, Christianity has been recognized as the "religion of the cross." Some of the great monuments of Western art are representations of the brutal torture and execution of Christ. Despite the horror of crucifixion, we often find such images beautiful. The beauty of the cross expresses the central paradox of Christian faith: the cross of Christ's execution is the symbol of God's victory over death and sin. The cross as an aesthetic object and as a means of devotion corresponds to the mystery of God's wisdom and power manifest in suffering and apparent failure. In this volume, Richard Viladesau seeks to understand the beauty of the cross as it developed in both theology and art from their beginnings until the eve of the renaissance. He argues that art and symbolism functioned as an alternative strand of theological expression -- sometimes parallel to, sometimes interwoven with, and sometimes in tension with formal theological reflection on the meaning of the Crucifixion and its role insalvation history. Using specific works of art to epitomize particular artistic and theological paradigms, Viladesau then explores the contours of each paradigm through the works of representative theologians as well as liturgical, poetic, artistic, and musical sources. The beauty of the cross is examined from Patristic theology and the earliest representations of the Logos on the cross, to the monastic theology of victory and the Romanesque crucified "majesty," to the Anselmian "revolution" that centered theological and artistic attention on the suffering humanity of Jesus, and finally to the breakdown of the high scholastic theology of the redemption inempirically concentrated nominalism and the beginnings of naturalism in art. By examining the relationship between aesthetic and conceptual theology, Viladesau deepens our understanding of the foremost symbol of Christianity. This volume makes an important contribution to an emerging field, breaking new ground in theological aesthetics. The Beauty of the Cross is a valuable resource for scholars, students, and anyone interested in the passion of Christ and its representation.
Daniel J. Treier, Mark Husbands, and Roger Lundin, eds. (IVP Academic: Jun 2007), 233 pages.
The 2006 Wheaton Theology Conference explored a wide-ranging Christian approach to divine beauty and the earthly arts. Written and illustrated by artists and theologians, these essays illuminate for us the Christian significance of the visual arts, music and literature, as well as sounding forth the theological meaning and place of the arts in a fallen world-fallen, yet redeemed by Christ. A veritable feast for pastors, artists, theologians and students eager to consider the profound but not necessarily obvious connection between Christianity and the arts. Editors Mark Husbands, Roger Lundin and Daniel J. Treier present ten essays that explore a Christian approach to beauty and the arts. Theology has much to contribute in providing a place for the arts in the Christian life, and the arts have much to contribute to the quality of Christian life, worship and witness. The essays consider the visual arts, music and literature, as well as the theological meaning and place of the arts in a fallen world redeemed by Christ.
Aidan Nichols (Ashgate Publishing: May, 2007), 152 pages.
Redeeming Beauty explores the richness of orthodox Christian tradition, both Western and Eastern, in matters of 'sacral aesthetics' - a term used to denote the foundations, production and experience of religiously relevant beauty. Aidan Nichols investigates five principal themes: the foundation of beauty in the natural order through divine creative action; explicitly 'evangelical' beauty as a quality of biblical revelation and notably at its climax in Christ; the legitimacy of making and venerating artworks; qualities of the self in relation to objective presentation of the religiously beautiful; and the difficulties of practising a sacral aesthetic, whether as producer or consumer, in an epoch when the visual arts themselves have left behind not only Church but for the greater part the public as well. The thought of theologians such as Augustine, Aquinas, Balthasar, Ratzinger, Bulgakov, Maritain and others are explored.
Francis A. Schaeffer (IVP Books: Jan 30, 2007), 94 pages.
"The lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts," writes Francis Schaeffer. "A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God." Many Christians, wary of creating graven images, have steered clear of artistic creativity. But the Bible offers a robust affirmation of the arts. The human impulse to create reflects our being created in the image of a creator God. Art and the Bible has been a foundational work for generations of Christians in the arts. In this book's classic essays, Francis Schaeffer first examines the scriptural record of the use of various art forms, and then establishes a Christian perspective on art. With clarity and vigor, Schaeffer explains why "the Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars." ~ Product Description
Wassily Kandinsky (MFA Publications: July 1, 2006), 192 pages.
Wassily Kandinsky was one of the most influential painters of the twentieth century, and this text, in which he laid out the tenets of painting as he saw them and made the case for nonobjective artistic forms, is universally recognized as an essential document of Modernist art theory. A brilliant philosophical treatise and an emphatic avant-garde tract, it provides the theoretical underpinnings for Kandinsky's own work and that of his associates in the Blaue Reiter movement. While Michael Sadlerís masterful translation has been available and authoritative since its original publication in 1914, what hasnít been published until now is the significant correspondence between the translator and the artist, who followed the progress of his bookís transformation closely, and who offered numerous insights into and explanations of its meanings. These letters, from the archives of Tate Britain, have here been appended to Kandinskyís text to provide the first comprehensively annotated edition of this seminal work. This volume, which supersedes any previous edition, includes the letters, Kandinskyís prefaces and prose poems relating to the period in which the book was written and Sadlerís selected writings on art. It is more than an expanded edition--it is a major event, the first full account of a remarkable literary collaboration.
Jules Lubbock (Yale University Press: May 22, 2006), 358 pages.
Recounting the biblical stories through visual images was the most prestigious form of commission for a Renaissance artist. In this book, Jules Lubbock examines some of the most famous of these pictorial narratives by artists of the caliber of Giovanni Pisano, Duccio, Giotto, Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Donatello and Masaccio. He explains how these artists portrayed the major biblical events, such as: the Sacrifice of Isaac, the Annunciation, the Feast of Herod and the Trial and Passion of Jesus, so as to be easily recognizable and, at the same time, to capture our attention and imagination for long enough to enable us to search for deeper meanings. He provides evidence showing that the Church favoured the production of images that lent themselves to being read and interpreted in this way, and he describes the works themselves to demonstrate how the pleasurable activity of deciphering these meanings can work in practice. This fascinating book is richly illustrated, and many of it's photographs have been specially taken to show how the paintings and relief sculptures appear in the settings, for which they were originally designed. Seen from these viewpoints, they become more readily intelligible. Likewise, the starting point and the originality of Lubbock's interpretations lies in his accepting that these works of art were primarily designed to help people to reflect upon the ethical and religious significance of the biblical stories. The early Renaissance artists developed their highly innovative techniques to further these objectives, not as ends in themselves. Thus, the book aims to appeal to students, scholars and the general public, who are interested in Renaissance art and to those with a religious interest in biblical imagery.
Philip Graham Ryken (P&R Publishing: May 2, 2006), 64 pages.
A small book on a big topic is a dangerous proposition. It may show disrespect for its subject by bragging that it can be read in a short time, such as Kant in 90 minutes. (Kant in 90 minutes is not Kant at all.) On the other hand, a short book can thoughtfully introduce a profound subject worthy of further consideration; it may be a primer. Art for God's Sake is a worthy primer; it addresses the relationship of Christian faith and art in the hope of helping Christians "recover the arts." Philip Graham Ryken, Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and the author of several previous books, including Written in Stone (an insightful study of the Decalogue), has in sixty-four pages outlined a biblical view of art's place in God's world. Ryken is moved by the plight of the Christian artist whose calling and work is misunderstood or rejected by the church. He realizes that Christians may be suspicious of art because of their concern for idolatry and their repulsion toward much of contemporary art, which has abandoned the ideal of beauty and revels in the bizarre, the transgressive, and the outright ugly. Ryken also laments that Christians too often reduce art to utilitarian and evangelistic purposes that fail to honor art as art. Further, Christians often laud art that does not take the brokenness of life east of Eden seriously. Quite frequently, Christian art is little more than pious kitsch, which he aptly describes as "tacky artwork of poor quality that appeals to low tastes". ~ Douglas Groothuis