Image and Text - a marriage of necessity
Beginning Thursday night, Bethany Community Church, in conjunction with Gage Academy in Seattle, will be hosting art seminar. I'll be opening the discussion tomorrow night with a session the relationship of image and text among people of faith. The seminar continues on Friday with a presentation by Dr. Read Schuchardt, of Wheaton college, as he addresses the relationship of form to content, the objectivity of beauty, and the expropriation of the sacred.
The relationship between art and the church has been strained at some points in history, beautiful and symbiotic in others. In our time and place, the relationship is strained for several reasons:
1. Modernity has been obsessed with the text in a way that has crowded out the role of beauty and image. This will be the focus of our discussion tomorrow night, but for now, I'll note that one of the encouraging signs of our time is the resurgence of image as a means of authentic communication. The church must wrestle with how to encourage and affirm creative expressions that are subjective, non-linear, and able to communicate to a different part of the soul.
2. Art in the church has often been limited to utilitarian expressions. In other words, a manger scene is a worthy subject, but not a still life. The church must wrestle with the value of images that aren't directly linked to Bible stories, asking herself if God is able to speak through other forms?
3. There's often been a sense that, when it comes to the church, creative expressions are necessarily second class. I remember auditioning once for the Opera orchestra in Fresno while in high school. I played timpani and one of the jury members hearing me said, in a phone interview prior to the audition, "this isn't some church thing we're doing here - this is the real deal." I'll never forget his juxtaposition of 'church' and 'real', as if to say that expressions of creativity in the church have a different quality standard than elsewhere. Would you rather have a poorly created painting of Mary and Joseph, or a high quality impressionist landscape?
4. The church is still wrestling with dualism. We say Jesus came in human flesh. We say the body isn't inherently evil. We say that the hierarchy between invisible and visible is false, that God is in it all. But I'm not certain we believe it. An entire conversation needs to follow this simple observation, but that will be up to you, at least for now.
Thoughts on the church and art, dualism, the relationship between image and text?
7:00 PM tomorrow at Bethany