Art, Beauty, Interpretation
Ned Bustard and Sandra Bowden, eds. (Square Halo Books: Aug 2000)
The goal of this book is to provide a deeper discussion of what a believer practicing their discipline for God's glory would (or should) look like. Rather than a defense of the believer's place in the arts — which has been done very well in other works — this book is intended to be primarily about art MAKING. The premise of this work is that a Christian looks at the world differently than the non-christian due to a restored relationship with the Creator. Imagine a christian sitting down to create a piece of pottery, write a novel or paint a picture. This believer has decisions to make: color, form, content, theme... as well as where they fit into their church and larger community. Of course this book can't dictate things such as, "Paint a red bird... write the song in standard time... the pot should have three handles...". But decisions do need to be made and it is the intent of this book to give the readers ideas to work through so they can develop the internal tools needed to carry out their artwork with a biblical worldview. In this way, It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God will offer both theoretical and practical insights into the making of art from a biblical perspective. We as believers in the arts can show through the common grace of art a fleeting picture of Eden. We should not allow the arts to be the sole dominion of the enemies of God but instead we should join with Martin Luther in affirming our desire to see all the arts "in the service of Him who has given and created them."
Richard Viladesau (Paulist Press: Jul 2000), 288 pages.
Richard Viladesau's book takes a look at an inviting topic that has come into increasing prominence in a number of fields lately — including theology. Theology and the Arts explores, in a timely and engaging manner, several aspects of the relations between theology and aesthetics, in both the pastoral and academic realms. The underlying motif of this work is that beauty is a means of divine revelation, and that art is the human mediation that both enables and limits its revelatory power. Using examples from music, pictorial art and rhetoric, the five chapters explore different aspects of the ways that art enters into theology and theology into art, both in pastoral practice, e.g., liturgical music, sacred art and preaching, and in the area of systematic reflection, where, Viladesau contends, art must be recognized as a genuine theological text. A reader-friendly feature of this work is the addition, after the central chapters, of a discography of illustrative musical works and lists of internet sights of sacred art and art history resources-a virtual museum — that will complement the text. These enhance the value of this well-written, provocative text. Although aimed at undergraduate theology students, it will certainly capture the interest of art students, pastoral ministers and anyone who appreciates the arts.
Gabriele Finaldi (National Gallery Publications: May 2000), 224 pages.
The Image of Christ by Gabriele Finaldi is a beautifully illustrated, colorful history of how Christ has been portrayed by artists from the early church to the present. It is not, however, a life of Christ told in pictures. Instead, the book explores the challenges Christian artists have faced as they have tried to imagine what Jesus looked like. Since no eyewitness descriptions of Jesus' physical appearance survived, the earliest artists' depictions of Christ played on the symbols and images that he used in his parables--such as the Good Shepherd, the Light, and the Vine. Later, artists became concerned with capturing Christ's true physical likeness, based on miraculous relics such as the cloth that Saint Veronica offered him on his way to Calvary, which was believed to be imprinted with an image of his face. These stages in the history of Christian art are described by several art historians in brief essays, each of which is lavishly illustrated. The book, which was inspired by Seeing Salvation: The Image of Christ, an exhibition at the National Gallery, London, will be treasured by secular and believing readers alike. A deeper understanding of the religious context of these works will sharpen viewers' experience of their universal relevance. The dozens of pictures, paintings, and sculptures reproduced here bear profound witness not only to the events of Jesus' life, but also to the enduring power of a mother's love for her children, the suffering of innocents, and love's triumph over death. ~ Michael Joseph Gross
Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion (2000).
In selecting books for this list, Image Journal decided to list an author only once to end up with 100 different writers. Moreover, only creative writing was considered: fiction, poetry, drama, and creative nonfiction. The works selected manifest a genuine engagement with the Judeo-Christian heritage of faith, rather than merely using religion as background or subject matter. Authors featured on the list include notables like G.K. Chesterton, Ray Bradbury, Annie Dillard, T.S. Eliot, Madeleine L'Engle, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, and many more. The list is orgnaized alphabetically by last name. "We hope that the following list offers but a glimpse of that wealth of talent this past century has seen — talent exhibited both by those who laid the groundwork for the great works now being written and by those whose compelling narratives and lyrics are helping to bring us into the twenty-first century with a renewed hope in the marriage of religion and art." ~ Image
Jaroslav Pelikan (Yale University Press: Nov 10, 1999), 304 pages.
Ask anyone to name the most influential person in history, and chances are the reply will be, simply, "Jesus." Here, Yale historian Pelikan ably explores the universe of power and influence embedded in that revered five-letter name, as he surveys the role of the carpenter from Galilee in "the general history of culture." Pelikan proceeds from the premise that the "image" of Jesus - his identity as perceived by successive epochs - is a mirror reflecting the course of Western civilization, and that tracing that image through time will reveal the "continuities and discontinuities" of the past two millennia. His project uncovers mostly discontinuities; Western culture's christological imagery changes dramatically from age to age. Pelikan begins by looking at the early concept of Jesus as prophet and and rabbi, prevalent in the first century. Subsequent chapters cover in chronological order 17 other major representations of Jesus. These include Jesus as Logos, as "bridegroom of the soul," as "Universal Man," and so on. Behind these wildly divergent images, however, a rainbowlike pattern emerges: Jesus's prestige arches steeply upwards from his humble origins as a crucified wonder-worker, reaches its apogee in his medieval elevation to alpha and omega of the cosmos, declines in modern times to his quasi-mundane role as prototypical social liberator. This man, it seems, can be all things to all people; like the Beauty he embodied for the Romantics, Jesus lies in the eyes of the beholder.
Ric Ergenbright (Tyndale House: Oct 1, 1999), 160 pages.
Renowned landscape photographer Ric Ergenbright here turns his attention to the holiness reflected in the beauty of the natural world. Combining scriptural passages with photographic and scientific observations relating to the elements of nature, Ergenbright uses his dramatic, often astonishing photographs as a testament to the power and perfection of God. Though he recognizes that "if all Scripture were lost, we could still know something of [God's] character by carefully studying the works of his hands," Ergenbright uses the book to emphasize how God's Word can illuminate the world around us. This beautiful coffee-table book is a wonderful addition to any nature-lover's collection, and the detailed notes throughout are an education to any aspiring photographer.
Richard Viladesau (Oxford University Press: Mar 25, 1999), 320 pages.
This book explores the role of aesthetic experience in our perception and understanding of the holy. Richard Viladesau's goal is to articulate a theology of revelation, examined in relation to three principal dimensions of the aesthetic realm: feeling and imagination: beauty (or taste); and the arts. After briefly considering ways in which theology itself can be imaginative or beautiful, Viladesau concentrates on the theological significance of aesthetic data provided by each of the three major spheres of aesthetic perception and response. Throughout the work, the underlying question is how each of these spheres serves as a source (however ambiguous) of revelation.
Paul Corby Finney (Oxford University Press: Sep 18, 1997), 352 pages.
This revisionist study challenges the received opinion that in its earliest manifestations Christianity was a form of religiosity opposed both on principle and in fact to the use of pictures. Paul Corby Finney argues that the well-known absence of Christian pictures before A.D. 200 is due to a complex interplay of social, economic, and political factors, and is not, as is commonly assumed, a result of an anti-image ideology. The book documents the origins of Christian art based on some of the oldest surviving Christian archaeological evidence, and it seeks to show how the Christian products conformed to the already-existing pagan types and models. This study will interest scholars and students in the fields of church history, ancient history, archaeology, art history, classics, and historical theology.
Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, ed. (Continuum: Aug 1, 1995), 356 pages.
A collection of essays concerning religion and art, including contributions by Barbara Novak, Leo Steinberg, Paul Tillich, Wassily Kandinsky, John Dixon Jr., David Tracy, Joshua Taylor, and Langdon B. Gilkey. Addresses themes including: "Concerning the Spiritual in Art", Leonardo's Last Supper, the use of images in India, "Painting as Theological Thought", "Judaism and Art", "The Art of Deception", "The Religious Impulse in American Art", "An Islamic Perspective on Symbolism", "Theological Reflections" on Picasso's Girl before a Mirror, and more.
Madeleine L'Engle (Doubleday: Sep 1993), 320 pages.
We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes…" Story captures our hearts and feeds our imaginations. It reminds us who we are and where we came from. Story gives meaning and direction to our lives as we learn to see it as an affirmation of God’s love and truth–an acknowledgment of our longing for a rock in the midst of life’s wilderness. Drawing upon her own experiences, well-known tales in literature, and selected narratives from Scripture, Madeleine L’Engle gently leads the way into the glorious world of story in The Rock That Is Higher. Here she acknowledges universal human longings and considers how literature, Scripture, personal stories, and life experiences all point us toward our true home. ~ Product Description