FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 244 ART AND THE BIBLE Part 1 Three basic possibilities concerning the nature of a work of art (Feature on artist Laylah Ali)

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Art and the Bible
by Francis Schaeffer

There is a very real sense in which the Christian life itself should be our greatest work of art.
Even for the great artist, the most crucial work of art is his l
distinct perspectives on art
francis schaeffer

All of us are engaged daily with works of art, even if we are neither professional nor amateur artists. We read books, we listen to music, we look at posters, we admire flower arrangements.

Art, as I am using the word, does not include just “high art” — that is, painting, sculpture, poetry, classical music — but also the more popular expressions — the novel, the theater, the cinema and popular music.

In fact, there is a very real sense in which the Christian life itself should be our greatest work of art. Even for the great artist, the most crucial work of art is his life. In what follows, I wish to develop a Christian perspective on art in general.

How should we as creators and enjoyers of beauty comprehend and evaluate it? There are, I believe, at least eleven distinct perspectives from which a Christian can consider and evaluate works of art. These perspectives do not exhaust the various aspects of art. The field of aesthetics is too rich for that. But they do cover a significant portion of what should be a Christian Ìs understanding in this area.

artwork as artwork

The first is the most important: a work of art has a value in itself. For some this principle may seem too obvious to mention, but for many Christians it is unthinkable. And yet if we miss this point, we miss the very essence of art.

Art is not something we merely analyze or value for its intellectual content. It is something to be enjoyed. The Bible says that the art work in the tabernacle and the temple was for beauty. How should an artist begin to do his work as an artist? I would insist that he begin his work as an artist by setting out to make a work of art. What that would mean is different in sculpture and poetry, for example, but in all cases the artist should be setting out to make a work of art.

As a Christian we know why a work of art has value. Why? First, because a work of art is a work of creativity, and creativity has value because God is the Creator. The first sentence in the Bible is the declaration that the Creator created: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. So too the first words of the prologue to the Gospel of John: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … . All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made (John 1:1, 3). Therefore, the first reason that creativity has value is that God is the Creator.

Second, an art work has value as a creation because man is made in the image of God, and therefore man not only can love and think and feel emotion, but also has the capacity to create. Being in the image of the Creator, we are called upon to have creativity. In fact, it is part of the image of God to be creative, or to have creativity. We never find an animal, non-man, making a work of art. On the other hand, we never find men anywhere in the world or in any culture in the world who do not produce art. Creativity is a part of the distinction between man and non-man. All people are to some degree creative. Creativity is intrinsic to our “mannishness.”

But we must be careful not to reverse this. Not everything that man makes is good intellectually or morally. So, while creativity is a good thing in itself, it does not mean that everything that comes out of man’s creativity is good. For while man was made in the image of God, he is fallen. Furthermore, since men have various gifts and talents, everyone cannot create everything equally well. However, the main point is that creativity as creativity is a good thing as such.

When I was younger, I thought it was wrong to use the word create in reference to works of art. I thought it ought to be used solely in relation to what God can do. Later, I saw that I was desperately wrong; I am now convinced that it is important to understand that both God and man create. Both make something. The distinction is this: God, because He is infinite, can create out of nothing by His spoken word. We, because we are finite, must create from something else that has already been created. Yet the word create is appropriate, for it suggests that what man does with what is already there is to make something new. Something that was not there before, something that began as an unmannish part of reality, is transformed by the mannishness of man and now reflects that mannishness.

I am convinced that one of the reasons men spend millions in making art museums is not just so that there will be something “aesthetic,” but because the art works in them are an expression of the mannishness of man himself. When I look at the preColumbian silver or African masks or ancient Chinese bronzes, not only do I see them as works of art, but I see them as expressions of the nature and character of humanity. As a man, in a certain way they are myself, and I see there the outworking of the creativity that is inherent in the nature of man.

Many modern artists, it seems to me, have forgotten the value that art has in itself. Much modern art is far too intellectual to be great art. I am thinking, for example, of such an artist as Jasper Johns. Many modern artists do not see the distinction between man and non-man, and it is a part of the lostness of modern man that they no longer see value in the work of art as a work of art.

I am afraid, however, that as evangelicals we have largely made the same mistake. Too often we think that a work of art has value only if we reduce it to a tract. This too is to view art solely as a message for the intellect.

There are, I believe, three basic possibilities concerning the nature of a work of art. The first view is the relatively recent theory of art for art’s sake. This is the notion that art is just there and that is all there is to it. You can’t talk about a message in it, you can’t analyze it, it doesn’t say anything. This view is, I think, quite misguided. For one thing, no great artist functions on the level of art for art’s sake alone. Think, for example, of the high Renaissance, beginning with Cimabue (c. 1240-1302) and leading through Giotto (1267-1337), Masaccio (1401-28), and all the way up to Michelangelo (1475-1564) and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). All of these artists worked from one of two viewpoints, and sometimes there was a confusion between the two. They worked either from their notion of Christianity (which to us who hold a biblical viewpoint was often deficient) or from a Renaissance form of humanism. Florence, for example, where so many excellent works of art were produced, was a center for the study of Neoplatonism. Some of the artists studied under Ficino (1433-99), perhaps the greatest of the Neoplatonists and influential throughout Europe. These artists showed their viewpoint in their art.

It is true that the great modern artists such as Picasso never worked for only art for art’s sake either. Picasso had a philosophy which showed through in his paintings. It is true that many lesser artists now work, or try to work, in the milieu of art for art’s sake, but the great masters did not.

The second view, which I spoke of above, is that art is only an embodiment of a message, a vehicle for the propagation of a particular message about the world or the artist or man or whatever. This view has been held by Christians as well as non-Christians, the difference between these two versions being the nature of the message which the art embodies. But, as I have said, this view, Christian or non-Christian, reduces art to an intellectual statement, and the work of art as a work of art disappears. The third basic notion of the nature of art — the one I think is right, the one that really produces great art and the possibility of great art — is that the artist makes a work of art, and that then the body of his work shows his world-view. No one, for example, who understands Michelangelo or Leonardo can look at their work without understanding something of their respective worldviews. Nonetheless, these artists began by making works of art, and then their world-views showed through the body of their work. I emphasize the body of an artist’s work because it is impossible ible for any single painting, for example, to reflect the totality of an artist’s view of reality. But when we see a collection of an artist’s paintings or a series of a poet’s poems or a number of a novelist’s novels, both the outline and some of the details of the artistØs conception of life shine through. How then should an artist begin to do his work? I would insist that he begin by setting out to make a work of art. He should say to himself, “I am going to make a work of art.” Perspective number one is that a work Of art is first of all a work of art.

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Francis Schaeffer has written extensively on art and culture spanning the last 2000 years and here are some posts I have done on this subject before : Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 10 “Final Choices” episode 9 “The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence”episode 8 “The Age of Fragmentation”episode 7 “The Age of Non-Reason” episode 6 “The Scientific Age” episode 5 “The Revolutionary Age” ,  episode 4 “The Reformation” episode 3 “The Renaissance”episode 2 “The Middle Ages,”, and  episode 1 “The Roman Age,” . My favorite episodes are number 7 and 8 since they deal with modern art and culture primarily.(Joe Carter rightly noted, “Schaeffer—who always claimed to be an evangelist and not a philosopher—was often criticized for the way his work oversimplified intellectual history and philosophy.” To those critics I say take a chill pill because Schaeffer was introducing millions into the fields of art and culture!!!! !!! More people need to read his works and blog about them because they show how people’s worldviews affect their lives!!!!)

There is evidence that points to the fact that the Bible is historically true as Schaeffer pointed out in episode 5 of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE  HUMAN RACE? There is a basis then for faith in Christ alone for our eternal hope. This link shows how to do that.

 

 

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Francis Schaeffer with his son Franky pictured below. Francis and Edith (who passed away in 2013) opened L’ Abri in 1955 in Switzerland.

Featured artist:Laylah Ali

Something happens that she is not entirely in control of and she can’t tell you the meaning of a painting till after it is finished and time goes by.

Laylah Ali: Meaning | Art21 “Exclusive”

Uploaded on Sep 18, 2009

Episode #074: While painting in her Williamstown, Massachusetts studio, artist Laylah Ali discusses the imperative she feels to make things and the nuanced relationship of political and personal events to the work.

Laylah Ali creates gouache-on-paper paintings that take her many months to complete. Ali meticulously plots out in advance every aspect of her work, from subject matter to choice of color, achieving a high level of emotional tension in her paintings as a result of juxtaposing brightly colored scenes with dark, often violent subject matter.

Learn more about Laylah Ali: http://www.art21.org/artists/laylah-ali

VIDEO | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Joel Shapiro. Sound: Tom Bergin. Editor: Mary Ann Toman. Artwork Courtesy: Laylah Ali.

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Laylah Ali: Designer Nicole Parente | Art21 “Exclusive”

Uploaded on Jun 11, 2009

Episode #060: Artist Laylah Ali and graphic designer Nicole Parente work together in the designer’s home office in Cambridge, MA. The artist’s hand-drawn notes are transformed into precise digital illustrations otherwise impossible without a computer.

Laylah Ali creates gouache-on-paper paintings that take her many months to complete. Ali meticulously plots out in advance every aspect of her work, from subject matter to choice of color, achieving a high level of emotional tension in her paintings as a result of juxtaposing brightly colored scenes with dark, often violent subject matter. In style, her paintings resemble comic-book serials, but they also contain stylistic references to hieroglyphics and American folk-art traditions.

Learn more about Laylah Ali: http://www.art21.org/artists/laylah-ali

VIDEO | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Dowling. Camera & Sound: Ken Willinger and Bob Freeman. Editor: Jenny Chiurco. Artwork Courtesy: Laylah Ali. Special Thanks:

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Dean Moss and Laylah Ali “Voluntaries”

Published on Oct 24, 2012

Choreographer Dean Moss with artist Laylah Ali offer a performance (MOMA commissioned) of a work concerning the legacy of an attempted armed slave revolt by John Brown ,abolitionist. (This video shows the second half of the performance).

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From PBS:

Biography « previous artist | next artist »
Laylah Ali was born in Buffalo, New York in 1968, and lives and works in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She received a BA from Williams College and an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. The precision with which Ali creates her small figurative gouache paintings on paper is such that it takes her many months to complete a single work. She meticulously plots out in advance every aspect of her work, from subject matter to choice of color and the brushes that she will use. In style, her paintings resemble comic-book serials, but they also contain stylistic references to hieroglyphics and American folk-art traditions. Ali often achieves a high level of emotional tension in her work as a result of juxtaposing brightly colored scenes with dark, often violent subject matter that speaks of political resistance, social relationships, and betrayal. Although Ali’s interest in representations of socio-political issues and current events drives her work, her finished paintings rarely reveal specific references. Her most famous and longest-running series of paintings depicts the brown-skinned and gender-neutral Greenheads, while her most recent works include portraits as well as more abstract biomorphic images. Ali endows the characters and scenes in her paintings with everyday attributes like dodge balls, sneakers, and band-aids as well as historically- and culturally-loaded signs such as nooses, hoods, robes, masks, and military-style uniforms. Her drawings, to which she refers as ‘automatic’, are looser and more playful than the paintings and are often the source of material that she explores more deeply in her paintings. Laylah Ali has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; ICA, Boston; MCA Chicago; Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis; and MASS MoCA, among others. Her work was exhibited at the Venice Biennale (2003) and the Whitney Biennial (2004).For additional biographic & bibliographic information:
303 Gallery, New York  |  Miller Block Gallery, Boston
Laylah Ali on the Art21 blog

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