On Reading THE GIFT OF ART

Though my latest read was written when I was just twelve years old—in other words, decades ago—it speaks so profoundly to my interests today. The Gift of Art: The Place of the Arts in Scripture by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. celebrates the biblical purpose of art: “glory and beauty.” At the same time, Veith considers art’s place among the more practical aspects of life: food, clothing, shelter, customs, etc. Veith says, “All of these are valuable gifts of God, essential parts of our humanity.” As I learn more about art and marvel at all of its forms, I couldn’t agree more.

The book cover also describes The Gift of Art as having a “liberating spirit.” I remain convinced by Veith’s arguments that God encourages creativity with very few, but very firm, boundaries. Here are a few of my very favorite key points from the book that support this theme and others:

[God] is the original abstract artist.”
In His making of the world, God also invented shapes and colors and concepts. No models or patterns to follow, just His good and perfect will. The ultimate creative process!

“Art is powerful because it heightens perception.”
Veith continues, “It does this partially by lifting an object or experience out of its normal context so that it can be apprehended freshly and more fully.” I expect to take this insight into my next visit to an exhibit—to appreciate even more the subject matter of an artist’s work and to stretch my understanding of the subject as to see it differently later in its “normal context.”

Art can never replace the Word of God.
Some Christian artists may feel pressured to portray the Gospel in their works. However, it’s essentially impossible—the Word is the Word is the Word. Art can definitely be inspired by it and founded on it, but the Word’s power is intrinsic to its medium and form. I love how Veith describes art as having the capability of being “sacramental,” communicating portions of God’s Word “not simply as an abstract doctrine but as a living and concrete reality.”

Art can help us understand a concept in a revitalizing way.
Veith offers this insight in a section titled “Recovering meaning.” He opines that art can help us recover in our hearts and memories the significance of our faith. The crucifixion. The resurrection. These, for instance, may be contemplated anew when observed in art.

“When art and religion are distinct, they can reflect each other.”
It all comes down to this: Enjoy God’s gift of art, be it a blatant expression of one’s faith or a whimsical seemingly unrelated experiment in color, texture, dimension, etc. God delights in it all, as long as they remain distinct—”…for the artist as a person, faith in his or her art alone leads to spiritual death,” says Veith.

Furthermore, Veith encourages our interests outside of religious doctrine; such interests actually help illuminate its relevance and timelessness and necessity. This is liberating indeed, just as promised at the beginning of reading The Gift of Art. So I plan to continue to immerse myself in any art and all art, trusting that it is one of the most divine gifts we are given in this life. I gladly receive it.

An Artist’s Bookshelf – October 2018

Once again, I’m traveling the “mixed media” route when it comes to my learning more about artists and artistic practices. Here’s what’s on my bookshelf, screen, etc., this month:

“Abstract: The Art of Design” series on Netflix
In short, this series is so cool! The first episode is about Christoph Niemann, a German illustrator who has many New Yorker covers and several books to his credit. I love the observation he makes at the beginning of the episode: given how it’s produced, the show is both by and about him; Niemann’s illustrations actually sew the documentary together. It’s hard to explain but so worth a look. I can’t wait to follow Niemann’s work from now on and to check out the next artists featured in the series. 

The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer
This book was described to me as The Artist’s Way for Christians. It promises “creative renewal” through readings, journaling, and other exercises focused on getting closer to God and, at the same time, discovering what He designed me to be and do. I look forward to seeing how this book will speak into my artistic endeavors and their intersection with my faith.

Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity by J. Scott McElroy
Like The Creative Call, this book and study guide duo is focused on harnessing the spiritual capacity of art. “Collaborate with God,” reads the back cover of the study guide. What I specifically like about this collection is how it offers real-life examples of other people who have attempted this and, by all appearances, who have done it well. I can pray to add myself to their number.