I work out of love for God and I put all my hope in Him. ~ Michelangelo
Ruby once again had a most interesting post ~ which has some very interesting comments as well ~ & it got me thinking about Art. In my own mind there is a very clear distinction between an object designed for veneration or worship & an object that is simply a symbolic representation. In point of fact I feel so strongly about artwork in churches that it is another reason for attending Quaker Meeting. Quakers do not hold with any form of decoration: no alters, no crosses, no stained class windows; no icons, no tapestries, no priestly robes.
I did a little art history in school ~ very little. I am aware that all those soaring Medieval churches were built to the glory of God & to lead men on the upward path, focusing their eyes on heaven. What's more, they are, I think, biblically correct. Have you ever read the Lord's instructions to the Israelites on the building of the temple?! Seriously, the place was weighed down with Lebanon cedar intricately carved & precious gold. The men even gave up their ear~rings for the temple gold. Worse [from my point of view] the priests were peacockily gaudy with their breastplates with 12 different jewels flashing in the sun ~ or the light of the lamps. They burnt incense to the Lord ~ expensive stuff that ~ & butchered their offerings in the courtyard. Not that I think the priests did their butchering in their breastplates but the overwhelming vision is one of a riot of colour & visual stimulus.
I know too, from my study of the Jewish festivals, that God had no qualms about instigating whatever means he thought would work to make sure the Israelites remembered what He wanted them to remember. Now I'm a homeschooling mama & I've done my homework on the different learning styles so when I turn to the festivals & find how God has incorporated visual, auditory, kinesthetic & hands on in to the festivals I'm pretty amazed & pretty stoked. How cool is that?
We have the Renaissance men: Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli, Donatello, Inigo Jones... a long, long list of talented artists & architects who produced some of the most stunning artwork ever seen. Much of it depicts God, in one way or another, seeing as the church was handing out most of the commissions. Much of it is incredibly moving. The sight of Mary cradling her crucified son as though he was still the little boy she'd carried sleeping to bed is a stunning portrait of mother & son but do I want to bow down & worship it? No. Do I think either Mary or Jesus looked like that? No. Good grief, it's not even realistic ~ in the sense that I doubt very much a small woman could have held the dead weight of a grown man in such a way for very long ~ if at all.
In Michelangelo's own head, for example, he was given this great gift by God & he was exercising that gift by glorifying God in his art. Putting aside, for the moment, the vexed question of whether or not such artwork is *graven images* I slam up against modern art. Our idiot government paid 1.3 million for Jackson Pollack's Blue Poles. I think my bias is showing. I do not like Jackson Pollack's work. We have moved from a position where the artist was glorifying the God who created him to one where man is glorifying man ~ or worse descending into the mire of plain grottiness ~ for those Australians who remember the Bill Henson furore.
I like art. I like all sorts of art ~ including art that depicts representations of my Lord & saviour but art raises some vexed questions. When does a representation become an idol? When does nudity become lewdness & gratuitous voyeurism? [Always, according to Star] What defines great art & when is it no more than unadulterated ego posing under the guise of art?
The Amish refer to t.v.s [which they don't own] as *the sewer in the living room* ~ & I'm sure that many of us would agree that most of what comes out of our t.v screens is neither edifying nor beautiful & does anything but glorify God. Yet have you ever listened to people interviewed about this muck? It's supposed to be art!
The old Puritans made it really simple. Music? It was a sin. Dancing? Sin. Art? Sin. Going to the theatre? Sin. No choices to make. Not only does that not make biblical sense to me [ think of David prancing before the Lord & all the psalms, the Song of Solomon...long list goes here] but what do you then do with all those people God has so wonderfully gifted? Where do you direct their talent?
Now I'm not in the business of telling anyone they must do this or that & not do that & the other thing [children & other aliens excepted] but one thing that seems really clear to me, the missing ingredient in so many discussions on so many issues, is the one simple directive James admonishes us to apply: if any of you lack wisdom ~ ask...
I believe in the Word of God ~ & I also believe, being human & fallible, we often misunderstand it & misinterpret it ~ & I think God has made it this way quite deliberately because it forces us into a position of dependency where we must turn to Him & say: "I don't understand. Explain this to me."
Just the same, I think I can safely say I'm not about to rush out & buy The Life of Brian.