Beginnings are my least favorite. It’s rather difficult to know how to start something, especially when you’re not exactly sure what it’s going to end up looking like.
My current sculpture is a little like this right now. Écorché hasn’t ever been easy for – oh wait – anyone. Yeah, not even Michelangelo, people. So when you’ve got the gluteus maximus and all those ridiculously wonderful leg muscles, but no pecs, it’s a little difficult to imagine how the figure will turn out. I’m sure The Bod will turn out fine eventually, but, as I said, beginning is always the hardest.
What I’m attempting to do in this blog, is to discuss and hash-out rather vehemently my own thoughts concerning the purpose of art. Having studied both studio art and art history at college, it was a question that burned in my mind almost constantly. And often resulted in many freak-out sessions to my mother. The biggest question that my studies of art raised was the place of artwork in the church. More specifically, the place of religious artwork in the context of a reformed church. Growing up in a Baptist church, I assumed that all sacred artwork was a form of “graven images.” Now, this is not to say that they would openly condemn sacred artwork. I think they would rather say that it’s “dangerous.” I agree that it can be dangerous, but I also think that for those of us who are artistically-inclined, it can actually be incredibly helpful. We also should think about the fact that the visual is one of the most powerful methods of teaching. During the Reformation, a resurgence of iconoclasm occurred because of the reactions to Catholic teaching and tradition. After the few hundred years that have elapsed between the Reformation and now, there is a group of intellectuals and artists in the reformed church who no longer view sacred art in the same way. There will be more on these types of ideas throughout the lifetime of this blog, but this is all I’m going to say for now, in hopes that the length of my first post doesn’t overwhelm.
Now, I’m beginning to understand that there are (at least) two camps within the reformed church:
1. Sacred art is idolatrous.
2. Sacred art, done properly, is not idolatrous, but may, in fact, be used to glorify the Lord.
Many people are of the second camp, but in order to protect themselves from entering into idolatry avoid the topic at all costs. Or they use such vague and careful language that it sounds like they’re pitching their tent in the first campsite.
My senior year at Hillsdale I worked on understanding the Byzantine theology of art. Namely, the theology of the icon. While I wasn’t able to completely agree with their theology, it was an important struggle for me to go through. And it made me question everything I thought I knew about Michelangelo and his fellow Renaissance artists. (Of course the Renaissance was the most glorious time for artwork, right? Eh. Debatable.)
Okay, okay. Here are some of the biggest questions I would like to explore throughout the existence of this little website:
What is the purpose of art? What is my theology of art? What is the proper place for sacred art in a reformed church? What exactly does art celebrate? If it’s not “pretty,” is it still art? What is visual beauty? If beauty is not in the eyes of the beholder, but rather an objective standard, as I’ve come to understand, then what is that objective standard? How will we judge art based on that standard? Which is higher: painting or sculpture?
There are sure to be more questions later. And, yes, all of these also have to do with Classical Education as well.