ArtWay

Art is the John the Baptist of the heart, preparing its affections for Christ. Jacques Maritain

On the Gifts of Street Art

On the Gifts of Street Art

by Jason Goroncy

One of the things that good art does is to shed light on the true nature of things; it broadens our horizons, it enriches our capacity to see, it alerts us to dimensions of reality gone unnoticed and for which words, sometimes, are simply not enough. The arts, therefore, can encourage the kind of imagination and vocation that the Good News itself fosters, encourages, demands, makes, and invites. Street art is no exception here. One of the reasons that I am so enthralled by this art form is because of the gifts it shares in helping me to read cities, and to read myself as I move in and through them.

In fact, one might argue that there are indeed things that make street art uniquely positioned to undertake this kind of work. First, street art is ‘essentially antithetical to the art world because it cannot easily, if at all, be incorporated into the art world’s institutions of preservation, display, history, and appreciation’ (N. Riggle, ‘Using the Street for Art: A Reply to Baldini’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 74 (2), 2016, 193). As (usually) an unsanctioned interventionist practice, street art challenges art institutions and commissioned public art, even while the two are in some ways mutually parasitic upon one another.

Secondly, street art witnesses, in ways usually more intentionally and more starkly than does art produced for galleries, foyers, and homes, to the impermanent character of the stuff that constitutes the world. Like spiritual practices, street art (which itself can certainly be a form of such practice) is also easily threatened and vulnerable to vandalism, reminding us that streets are always more delicate than a purely-functional assessment allows. Streets, like faith, are fragile. Streets, like faith, can be exploited and destroyed – sometimes by street artists themselves, at other times by something as menacing as fame. Thirdly, the practices of graffiti writers and street artists are both guided by and guide a city’s visual aesthetic insofar as they both assimilate that environment and recreate it. Context, its givens and its possibilities, is almost everything. And, finally, through their work such artists call into question the ethos of ownership by approaching the public commons in ways unfixed by the dominating stories that narrate our lives. Antitheses, impermanence, vulnerability, celebration and development of culture, redefinitions of proprietorship – sounds a bit like the geography of the New Testament.

‘As unauthorized art forms manifested in public spaces, graffiti and street art suggest that public art is as political as the space it inhabits’ (A. Wacławek, Graffiti and Street Art, 2011, 70). It provokes conversations about things that really matter to the polis and its citizens – about loss, about hypocrisy, about injustice, about race, about boredom, about alienation, about capitalism, about fascism, about poverty, about greed, about humour, about spirituality, about localism and internationalism, about our relationship with the earth itself, about love, about love’s desires and hopes, about all that concerns us and about all that moves us. One of the things that most strikes me about the street art that I have observed in many of the world’s streets and laneways is just how frequently such is, in different ways, a memorial to violence of many kinds – suicide, domestic violence, war, colonialism, police brutality, etc. I also observe much play – with symbols, with rituals, with notions of ‘private’ and ‘public’, etc.; the extraordinary gift of not taking ourselves too seriously. And I observe hope – whatever the subject matter, and whatever intolerable burden from which the work arises, making art in forgotten spaces represents an attempt to ‘make a vineyard of the curse’ (W. H. Auden, ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’, Selected Poems, 1979, 83). It is indeed an act of shared hope, and as such bears witness to ‘the intolerable burden of God’s presence’ (G. Steiner, The Death of Tragedy, 1980, 353). Memorials, play, hope – things that also smell much like does the Good News.

A significant number of street and graffiti artists – including Garrison Buxton (Londonderry and New York), MOMO (New York), CDH (Melbourne), Tom Civil (Melbourne), Ad Deville (New York), Invader (Paris), Ron English (New York), Jean Faucher (Paris), Alice Pasquini (Rome), Blu (Berlin), Zhang Dali (Beijing), and others – have identified their work primarily as intentional opposition to the ways that commercial advertising now dominates public space, particularly in our cities, transforming cities into branded hubs. Not all street and graffiti artists are so motivated, of course, as evidenced by the fact that many works of art appear in places not dominated by advertising – parks, laneways, construction sites, fences, etc. Regardless of motivation, however, the effect of such work challenges the commercial use of public space. With stencils, stickers, wool, paint, metal, plastic, wallpaper, etc., their work disrupts the dominating order and represents an act of reclaiming public space for citizens rather than merely consumers. As Banksy, the world’s best-known street artist, has stated:

The people who truly deface our neighbourhoods are the companies that scrawl their giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff. They expect to be able to shout their message in your face from every available surface but you’re never allowed to answer back. Well, they started this fight and the wall is the weapon of choice to hit them back. (Banksy, Banksy, 2005, 8–9)

At the very least, street art is a form of civic dialogue; or, as Gaia, a Baltimore-based installation and studio artist well known for his international street work, described it, ‘guerilla branding thinly veiled as a method of promulgating unfettered dialogue in the spaces that we share’ (S. Clay-Robinson and Gaia, ‘Street Art and Civic Dialogue: An Interview with Gaia’, Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory 16 (1), 2016, 90). We might otherwise think of street art as being about the enabling and constraining, the producing and the keeping alive, of an argument with a view to bringing about physical and cultural reconstruction. Oftentimes, street art provokes cognitive dissonance. Those who dismiss street art on the basis that it represents ‘illegal’ or ‘anti-social’ activity might do well to remember that some of the world’s greatest literature, including the Bible, provides an historical record of subversive witness given, in part, to undermine the power of established systems and institutions. Insofar as both function to disrupt our idolatrous comforts, they are gifts to us. Indeed, among the many gifts that street artists offer – gifts not infrequently ‘hurt … into’ from ‘ranches of isolation and the busy griefs’ (Auden, ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’, 82) – is a proclivity to bear witness to how things are and not merely to how they might appear to be.

Such a proclivity involves a telling of the truth about those largely-untampered-with and untraversed spaces of our urban worlds, about what is present but underexposed or disregarded; and even, as Auden hints, to lead with ‘unconstraining voice’ the way toward healing and toward a renewed sense of enchantment, freedom, and praise beyond the pedestrian and clamorous. Such a proclivity is also a form of urban spirituality. It can even be a form of public theology.

It seems that among street artist’s concerns – concerns shared with poets, playwrights, and other endangered species – is not so much a ‘celebratory sense of being at home in the world’ but rather an ‘acute awareness of the world not being at home in itself’ (R. Williams, ‘Poetic and Religious Imagination’, Theology 80 (675), 1977, 178), an awareness about which the responsible artist has a marked sense of personal complicity. The world, in other words, is dislocated. And artists – street artists and other – are called to survive in order to speak responsibly to that dislocation, to speak with fidelity not only to time but also to eternity, and to acknowledge the meaningful relation of both to human being in the world and, in so doing, dignify the human condition. To this end, street art can parody the promise that God’s call to life comes from and invites persons towards the countercultural margins and hells where the Christ who is undomesticated by the Church is to be found. As William Stringfellow once reminded us, ‘the first place to look for Christ is in hell’ (‘No Priesthood: No Laity’, in A Keeper of the Word: Selected Writings of William Stringfellow, 1994, 165).

In addition to those matters aforementioned, one of the things that distinguishes street artworks from their counterparts in museums is their unavoidable relationship to place. Street art is art of, belonging to, dependent upon, the street, just as sculpture is the art of space and volume, and dance the art of the moving body. Its ‘power lies in its ability to harness the function of the street without destroying it’ (N. Riggle, ‘Using the Street for Art’, 194). Street artworks are ‘part of the urban texture and necessarily incorporate elements of the urban landscape in their respective structures’ (A. Baldini, ‘Street Art: A Reply to Riggle’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 74 (2), 2016, 187). The context – the street, the train, the pole, the wall, etc. – is not in any way at all insignificant or inconsequential to the art work but is inescapably and deliberately internal and essential to its meaning. Mark Jenkins’s street sculptures, or Bruno Taylor’s ‘Bus Stop Swings’, or C. [Christine] Finley’s ‘Wall-paper Dumpster’ project are a case in point. Rather than subverting the public space, they each harness and augment its essential function as public. One might even suggest that in doing so they add value to the street, not least by showing how well the street as cultural space can more fully realise its functions. Such an approach recognises that context is irreducible to spatial and logistical considerations and is in fact a socio-cultural reality – ‘a place where we can express ourselves in public, present our style, declare our commitments, allegiances, and values’ (Riggle, ‘Using the Street for Art’, 192).

It is, therefore, always a contested space ripe for public discourse – for, among other things, gospelling. ‘The “urbanistic character” of street art ensures diversity of its forms, breadth of expansion and heterogeneity of its participants, including professional and amateur authors and the unlimited range of residents and guests’. This is fed by a global population that is increasingly on the move, ‘cross-pollinating, miscegenating, hybridizing, and inventing new media, new multilingual expressions, and new art forms’ along the way (C. Carlson, ‘Timely Stencils, Timeless Meanings’, in Stencil Nation: Graffiti, Community, and Art, Russell Howze (ed), 2008, 13). This calls for undertaking the ongoing and challenging work of translation, of seeking to understanding better what makes us different and what we share in common. At its best, therefore, street art represents the enactment of the hopeful possibility of a kind of ecumenical homemaking, the transfiguration of the public commons into a commons that truly serves the civilisation of the public – a welcome response to modernity’s separation of art and life, and the contemporary world’s proclivity to ghettoism.

I suggested earlier that street art might be celebrated as a form of public theology. It seems that, for most Christians, theology is something that is meant to be done with words and not with images. But, of course, every decision we make about how we choose to communicate the Good News is already pre-loaded with visual symbolism that reinforces a perception that God communicates with us in a particular kind of way. The question, therefore, is not whether or not we should communicate visually; it is, rather, how we do so and what we say when we do. Artists see how things are with the world differently, but no less truthfully, than do scientists. It seems to me that if we are to walk in our world well, and justly, and with the mercy of God, then we cannot do so without the kind of re-imagining of reality and of human society that the arts, including street art, promote and invite.

But this is risky, isn’t it. Because ultimately, of course, there can be no guarantee that misunderstanding and misinterpretation will be avoided. But neither do we have any such guarantee in the use of our words. In both cases, it seems, what we offer is an act of faith. We offer so much as we have understood, knowing it to be partial, inadequate, and marred by our own brokenness. For Christians, we do so in the name and under the inspiration of the God who makes eloquent the stumbling witness of our faith, and who moulds our communication to good and loving purpose. It’s risky, but it’s God’s risk too.

To take up invitations to consider street art as a form of urban spirituality, and of public theology, as I have been suggesting here is to be confronted with questions of what happens to religious symbols (symbols that are frequently employed by street artists) when treated outside of their traditional contexts and interpretations. To whom do such symbols belong? Do religious believers and/or religious bodies have a monopoly on their use or are they truly public and so properly shared by others? Such questions become even more interesting, I suggest, when considered in the context of street art where issues of ‘ownership’ are judged quite otherwise than they are in other gallery spaces.

While in some cases street artists look at religion merely as a social phenomenon, for others religion provides stories, space – permission even – to raise bigger issues that affect those inside and outside of traditional faith communities. Yet others look to religion as a way of making sense of the world. Even for non-believers, religious symbols and stories can provide a larger narrative for our fragmented and information-saturated lives. This fascination with religious themes suggests a longing for repeated and repeatable points of orientation for the meaningful ordering of our lives – liturgical punctuations in an otherwise fluid existence. For others again, dealing with religious themes provides opportunity to revisit the faith of their childhood and to explore how it connects to their current experiences of being-in-the-world.

The fact is that fragments of religious imagery and symbolism are often caught in the recesses of our shared cultural subconscious, a reminder that religious images and symbols cannot be contained within the traditions from which they originated but become ‘a part of the culture and lie far beyond the final control of the church, … imaged in diverse ways by non-Christian as well as Christian artists, often contrary to the church’s dominant interpretation. But this should not be viewed as threatening but as a means by which, paradoxically, the traditional symbols are kept vital – are kept alive in the midst of human life’ (W. Yates, ‘Conflict and Conversations Between Religion and Art: Brooklyn and Beyond’, Arts: The Arts in Religious and Theological Studies 12 (1), 2000, 4). Such witnesses to religious experience, when captured by artistic imagination, can, I suggest, not only contribute to a deeper understanding of religion as such, but, indeed, open up alternative avenues of theological meaning and interpretation – to, as it were, see the world again. Far from being some kind of gimmick, such engagements might even be more than a capitulation to contemporary efforts at enchantment. They might be an expression of an eastering of the ordinary. They may be nothing short of being an expression of God’s own life among us.

*******

Jason Goroncy is Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Whitley College, University of Divinity. He blogs at jasongoroncy.com and is an editor for artandtheology.net.

This essay was originally published in Zadok 146, Summer (2019), 13–15.


More:

02 December 2021 / Adoration of the Magi from Papua New Guinea

In 2011 Wycliffe commissioned artist Nanias Maira, who belongs to the Kwoma people group of northwestern Papua New Guinea, to paint Bible stories in traditional style. 

Read more...


03 November 2021 / The Seven Works of Mercy in Art

by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker

This overview will show that these artworks from different ages mirror the theological ideas and the charitable works of their times.

Read more...


06 October 2021 / Disciplining our eyes with holy images

by Victoria Emily Jones

Images tend to work a subtle magic on us, especially after years of constant exposure.

Read more...


27 July 2021 / Russia’s 1st Biennale of Christ-centered Art

An opportunity of dialogue between the church and contemporary art

by Viktor Barashkov

Read more...


30 June 2021 / Jacques and Raïssa Maritain among the Artists

by David Lyle Jeffrey

About the influence of Jacques and Raïssa Maritain on Rouault, Chagall and Arcabas.

Read more...


13 May 2021 / GOD IS...

Chaiya Art Awards 2021 Exhibition: “God Is . . .”

by Victoria Emily Jones

Read more...


21 April 2021 / Photographing Religious Practice

by Jonathan Evens

The increasing prevalence of photographic series and books exploring aspects of religious practice gives witness to the return of religion in the arts.

Read more...


23 March 2021 / Constanza López Schlichting: Via Crucis

Perhaps what may be different from other Stations of the Cross is that it responds to a totally free expression and each station is a painting in itself. 

Read more...


10 February 2021 / Gert Swart: Four Cruciforms

In a post-Christian era, contemporary Christian artists have to find new ways of evoking the power of the cross. 

Read more...


08 January 2021 / Reflecting on a Gauguin Masterpiece

by Alan Wilson

An artist's reflection on Impressionism, Cezanne, Van Gogh and especially Gauguin's Vision after the Sermon.

Read more...


11 December 2020 / ArtWay Newsletter 2020

What makes the ArtWay platform so special is its worldwide scope thanks to its multilingual character. There are ArtWay visitors in all countries on this planet. 

Read more...


27 October 2020 / Art Pilgrimage

A Research Project on Art Stations of the Cross

by Lieke Wijnia

Read more...


18 September 2020 / Interview with Peter Koenig

by Jonathan Evens

Koenig's practice demonstrates that the way to avoid blandness in religious art is immersion in Scripture.

Read more...


17 August 2020 / BOOK REVIEW BY HEINRICH BALZ

How Other Cultures See the Bible

Christian Weber, Wie andere Kulturen die Bibel sehen. Ein Praxisbuch mit 70 Kunstwerken aus 33 Ländern.

Read more...


17 July 2020 / The Calling Window by Sophie Hacker

by Jonathan Evens  

In 2018 British artist Sophie Hacker was approached to design a window for Romsey Abbey to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

Read more...


12 June 2020 / A little leaven leavens the whole lump

From South Africa

Ydi Carstens reports on the group show ‘Unleavened’ which was opened in Stellenbosch shortly before the Covid-19 lock-down. 

Read more...


14 May 2020 / Jazz, Blues, and Spirituals

Republished: 

Hans Rookmaaker, Jazz, Blues, and Spirituals. The Origins and Spirituality of Black Music in the United States. 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evens

Read more...


17 April 2020 / Andy Warhol: Catholicism, Work, Faith And Legacy

by Jonathan Evens 

While Warhol’s engagement with faith was complex it touched something which was fundamental, not superficial.

Read more...


25 March 2020 / Sacred Geometry in Christian Art

by Sophie Hacker

This blog unravels aspects of sacred geometry and how it has inspired art and architecture for millennia. 

Read more...


22 February 2020 / Between East and West

By Kaori Homma

Being in this limbo between day and night makes me question, “Where does the east end and the west start?”

Read more...


15 February 2020 / Imagination at Play

by Marianne Lettieri

To deny ourselves time to laugh, be with family and friends, and fuel our passions, we get caught in what Cameron calls the “treadmill of virtuous production.”

Read more...


07 December 2019 / ArtWay Newsletter 2019

An update by our editor-in-chief 
and
the ArtWay List of Books 2019

Read more...


16 November 2019 / Scottish Miracles and Parables Exhibition

Alan Wilson: "Can there be a renewal of Christian tradition in Scottish art, where ambitious artists create from a heartfelt faith, committed to their Lord and saviour as well as their craft?"

Read more...


23 September 2019 / Dal Schindell Tribute

While Dal’s ads and sense of humour became the stuff of legends, it was his influence on the arts at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada that may be his biggest legacy. 

Read more...


04 September 2019 / The Aesthetics of John Calvin

Calvin stated that 'the faithful see sparks of God's glory, as it were, glittering in every created thing. The world was no doubt made, that it might be the theater of divine glory.'

Read more...


31 July 2019 / The Legend of the Artist

by Beat Rink

The image of the 'divine' artist becomes so dominant that artists take their orientation from it and lead their lives accordingly.

Read more...


02 July 2019 / Quotes by Tim Keller

Many “Christian art” productions are in reality just ways of pulling artists out of the world and into the Christian subculture.

Read more...


08 June 2019 / The Chaiya Art Awards

by Jonathan Evens

The Chaiya Art Awards 2018 proved hugely popular, with over 450 entries and more than 2,700 exhibition visitors.

Read more...


29 May 2019 / Art Stations of the Cross: Reflections

by Lieke Wynia

In its engagement with both Biblical and contemporary forms of suffering, the exhibition addressed complex topical issues without losing a sense of hope out of sight.

Read more...


03 May 2019 / Marianne Lettieri: Relics Reborn

Items that show the patina of time and reveal the wear and tear of human interaction are carriers of personal and collective history. 

Read more...


27 April 2019 / Franciscan and Dominican Arts of Devotion

by John Skillen 

This manner of prayer stirs up devotion, the soul stirring the body, and the body stirring the soul.

Read more...


13 March 2019 / Makoto Fujimura and the Culture Care Movement

by Victoria Emily Jones

Culture care is a generative approach to culture that brings bouquets of flowers into a culture bereft of beauty.

Read more...


08 January 2019 / Building a Portfolio of People

by Marianne Lettieri

Besides hard work in the studio, networking may be the single most important skill for a sustainable art practice.

Read more...


01 December 2018 / ArtWay Newsletter December 2018

ArtWay has Special Plans for 2019!

After London, Washington D.C. and New York the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands is now the anticipated location for a prominent art exhibition with the title Art Stations of the Cross.

Read more...


11 October 2018 / The Life, Art and Legacy of Charles Eamer Kempe

Book Review by Jonathan Evens

The significance and spirituality of the work is made clear in ways which counteract the stereotype of mass production of a static style.

Read more...


13 September 2018 / A Visit to the Studio of Georges Rouault

by Jim Alimena

Everything we saw and learned reinforced my picture of a great man of faith and a great artist. 

Read more...


09 August 2018 / With Opened Eyes: Representational Art

by Ydi Coetsee

How do we respond to the ‘lost innocence’ of representational art? 

Read more...


13 July 2018 / True Spirituality in the Arts

by Edith Reitsema

Living in Christ should lead us away from living with a segregated view of life, having a sacred-secular split. 

Read more...


17 May 2018 / Beholding Christ in African American Art

Book review by Victoria Emily Jones

One of the hallmarks of Beholding Christ is the diversity of styles, media, and denominational affiliations represented.

Read more...


23 April 2018 / Short Introduction to Hans Rookmaaker

by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker

On the occasion of the establishment of the Rookmaaker Jazz Scholarship at Covenant College, Chattanooga, Tennessee, 12 March 2018

Read more...


04 April 2018 / International Art Residency in India

Art for Change, a New Delhi based arts organization with a vision to see art shape society with beauty and truth, will be running its 6th annual International Artist Residency in November 2018.

Read more...


15 March 2018 / The Stations of the Cross at Blackburn Cathedral

by Penny Warden  

Perhaps the central challenge for the artist in imaging the body of Christ is the problem of representing the dual natures of the doctrine of the incarnation.

Read more...


23 February 2018 / Between the Shadow and the Light

By Rachel Hostetter Smith

In June 2013 a group of twenty North American and African artists from six African countries met for two weeks of intensive engagement with South Africa.

Read more...


30 January 2018 / Sacred Geometry in Christian Art

by Sophie Hacker

This blog unravels aspects of sacred geometry and how it has inspired art and architecture for millennia. 

Read more...


01 January 2018 / Jonathan Evens writes about Central Saint Martins

Why would Central Saint Martins, a world-famous arts and design college and part of University of the Arts London, choose to show work by its graduates in a church?

Read more...


06 December 2017 / ArtWay Newsletter December, 2017

ArtWay's Chairman Wim Eikelboom: "The visual arts cultivate a fresh and renewed view of deeply entrenched values. That is why ArtWay is happy to provide an online platform for art old and new."

Read more...


14 November 2017 / The Moral Imagination: Art and Peacebuilding

In the context of conflict transformation the key purpose of creative expression is to provide a venue for people to tell their stories, and for their stories to be heard.

Read more...


24 October 2017 / Bruce Herman: Ut pictura poesis?

For the last couple hundred of years the arts have largely been in "experimentation mode"—moving away from the humble business of craft and service toward ideas, issues, and theory.

Read more...


04 October 2017 / David Jeffrey: Art and Understanding Scripture

The purpose of In the Beauty of Holiness: Art and the Bible in Western Culture is to help deepen the reader’s understanding of the magnificence of the Bible as a source for European art.

Read more...


08 September 2017 / David Taylor: The Aesthetics of John Calvin

Calvin stated that 'the faithful see sparks of God's glory, as it were, glittering in every created thing. The world was no doubt made, that it might be the theater of divine glory.'

Read more...


23 August 2017 / ​Reconstructed by Anikó Ouweneel

A much talked-about exposition in the NoordBrabants Museum in The Netherlands showed works by modern and contemporary Dutch artists inspired by traditional Catholic statues of Christ and the saints. 

Read more...


04 July 2017 / Pilgrimage to Venice – The Venice Biennale 2017

When I start to look at the art works, I notice a strange rift between this pleasant environment and the angst and political engagement present in the works of the artists. 

Read more...


24 June 2017 / Collecting as a Calling

After many years of compiling a collection of religious art, I have come to realize that collecting is a calling. I feel strongly that our collection has real value and that it is a valuable ministry. 

Read more...


02 June 2017 / I Believe in Contemporary Art

By Alastair Gordon

In recent years there has been a growing interest in questions of religion in contemporary art. Is it just a passing fad or signs of renewed faith in art? 

Read more...


04 April 2017 / Stations of the Cross - Washington, DC 2017

by Aaron Rosen

We realized that the Stations needed to speak to the acute anxiety facing so many minorities in today’s America and beyond. 

Read more...


07 March 2017 / Socially Engaged Art

A discussion starter by Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin

Growing dissatisfaction with an out-of-touch, elite and market driven art world has led artists to turn to socially engaged art. 

Read more...


01 February 2017 / Theodore Prescott: Inside Sagrada Familia

The columns resemble the trunks of trees. Gaudi conceived of the whole interior as a forest, where the nave ceiling would invoke the image of an arboreal canopy.

Read more...


03 January 2017 / Steve Scott tells about his trips to Bali

In the Balinese shadow play the puppet master pulls from a repertoire of traditional tales and retells them with an emphasis on contemporary moral and spiritual lessons. 

Read more...


09 December 2016 / Newsletter ArtWay December 2016

Like an imitation of a good thing past, these days of darkness surely will not last. Jesus was here and he is coming again, to lead us to the festival of friends.

Read more...


01 November 2016 / LAbri for Beginners

What is the role of the Christian artist? Is it not to ‘re-transcendentalise’ the transcendent, to discern what is good in culture, and to subvert what is not with a prophetic voice?

Read more...


30 September 2016 / Book Review by Jonathan Evens

Jonathan Koestlé-Cate, Art and the Church: A Fractious Embrace - Ecclesiastical Encounters with Contemporary Art, Routledge, 2016.

Read more...


01 September 2016 / Review: Modern art and the life of a culture

The authors say they want to help the Christian community recognize the issues raised in modern art and to do so in ways that are charitable and irenic. But I did not find them so. Their representation of Rookmaaker seems uncharitable and at times even misleading. 

Read more...


29 July 2016 / Victoria Emily Jones on Disciplining our Eyes

There’s nothing inherently wrong with images—creating or consuming. In fact, we need them. But we also need to beware of the propensity they have to plant themselves firmly in our minds. 

Read more...


30 June 2016 / Aniko Ouweneel on What is Christian Art?

Pekka Hannula challenges the spectator to search for the source of the breath we breathe, the source of what makes life worth living, the source of our longing for the victory of redemptive harmony.

Read more...


09 June 2016 / Theodore Prescott: The Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia is a visual encyclopedia of Christian narrative and Catholic doctrine as Gaudi sought to embody the faith through images, symbols, and expressive forms.

Read more...


19 May 2016 / Edward Knippers: Do Clothes make the Man?

Since the body is the one common denominator for all of humankind, why do we fear to uncover it? Why is public nudity a shock or even a personal affront?

Read more...


27 April 2016 / Alexandra Harper: Culture Care

Culture Care is an invitation to create space within the local church to invest our talents, time and tithes in works that lean into the Kingdom of God as creative agents of shalom. 

Read more...


06 April 2016 / Jonathan Evens on Contemporary Commissions

The issue of commissioning secular artists versus artists of faith represents false division and unnecessary debate. The reality is that both have resulted in successes and failures.

Read more...


12 March 2016 / Betty Spackman: Creativity and Depression

When our whole being is wired to fly outside the box, life can become a very big challenge. To carve oneself into a square peg for the square holes of society, when you are a round peg, is painful to say the least.

Read more...


24 February 2016 / Jim Watkins: Augustine and the Senses

Augustine is not saying that sensual pleasure is bad, but that it is a mixed good. As his Confessions so clearly show, Augustine is painfully aware of how easily he can take something good and turn it into something bad. 

Read more...


11 February 2016 / H.R. Rookmaaker: Does Art Need Justification?

Art is not a religion, nor an activity relegated to a chosen few, nor a mere worldly, superfluous affair. None of these views of art does justice to the creativity with which God has endowed man.

Read more...


26 January 2016 / Ned Bustard: The Bible is Not Safe

Revealed is intended to provoke surprise, even shock. It shows that the Bible is a book about ordinary people, who are not only spiritual beings, but also greedy, needy, hateful, hopeful, selfish, and sexual.

Read more...


14 January 2016 / Painting by Nanias Maira from Papua New Guinea

In 2011 Wycliffe missionary Peter Brook commissioned artist Nanias Maira, who belongs to the Kwoma people group of northwestern Papua New Guinea, to paint Bible stories in the traditional style for which he is locally known. 

Read more...