Thursday, March 24, 2011

Where did the love go?

When did the relationship between church and artist go sour?

I've been pondering this recently and while I was at the bookstore today just happened upon a clearance book that I just had to get.

Churches and Cathedrals: 1700 years of Sacred Architecture.

This book literally sent me back to my first years in college.  I took four or five art history classes, three of which were not required.  One of my best friends at the time and I took such pride in our knowledge and discussions of art history. I remember never missing that class, always sitting in the front row, talking to our professor after class about a particular slide, lingering after finals to discuss our 10 page paper comparing/contrasting a tomb sculpture and a black-figured amphora.  We had numerous conversations that would last for hours about the thought behind a painting, the slant of light that was brought in.  Or even the unbelievable realism found within a marble sculpture.  I was so full of myself. I think for me if felt good to know something, something that only I really knew and could go on and on about.  I even remember clearly thinking that if I ever went for my masters it would be in art history.  There was even an instant in one of my modern art history classes in which my professor had just handed me back an essay I had written about some piece of art and he said to me "You write about art very well, and articulate yourself clearly. You could have a future in it."

At the time I guess I was flattered because after quitting softball and pretty much giving up on any ambition I had, it was nice to hear affirmation from someone, about something, anything.

Bernini sculptures
I remember the last essay I wrote for art history that I truly enjoyed.  It was of Gianlorenzo Bernini's(1598–1680) sculptures Angel with the Superscription and Angel with the Crown of Thorns(1668) in Terra cotta clay.  Something so simple, so small and unfinished and yet so powerful so breathtaking.  Sometimes I think I choose those to give myself a challenge, but looking back I think even then I was searching for God in my life.  I had known God before, but if you've ben a freshmen/sophomore in college God can easily slip through your fingers.  

It seems strange to me now looking back that through all of my studies in art history how the church began to push artists away, by the way they continuously abused them, used them for the gifts God had bestowed upon them.  And I think its happened to all artists at sometime or another...maybe not specifically by the church, but all artists have been used in some form or fashion.  

Michelangelo, Pieta. (Mary holding Jesus' body.)
I just question myself.  What was I thinking as I studied these inspired men of art, men of God?  I mean how can you create something as marvelous as the Pietà by Michelangelo and not be standing in awe and rapture of God?  How could these men create something so beautiful and powerful without the Holy Spirit guiding their hands and whispering the mysteries of the heavens in their ears?  And yet as I studied I did not see divine inspiration, I did not see hours of work and perhaps maybe prayer?  I did not see sweat, life and passion poured out on their creations...I saw the history.  I saw another grade to be made.

Now as I set this book of wonderfully inspired creations down, I wonder to myself...when did the artist and the churches relationship fall apart?  Art was how people knew of the Word of God before they could read, sculptures and stained glass depicted the stories of Moses, Noah, David, Daniel, Solomon, John the Baptist, Mary, Jesus the Christ and his Passion for our souls....when did the church misuse their power over artists and push them away? When did artists become selfish and soulless forsaking the one who gave them their talents? Making art about themselves and leaving God out?

I don't know. But what I do know is that in all my days I will seek to restore the glory of God into the art world, to use my gifts to magnify his Holy Name. 

1 Corinthians 15:57-58(ESV)
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Just found this quote:

"Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better." 
-Andre Gide, French writer.


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