Reading Art and the Bible Pt. 3 – The Mannishness of Art

“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.”

Observations from Chapter 2

1.  Schaeffer makes a point to establish the fact that art is a reflection of not just the artist but of humanity.  It’s a good reminder that there are people behind the artwork. Ones with deep thoughts and feelings.  They are not abstractions or ideas or facts from history. They’re people, like me.

2. He makes the point that in order for an artist to make truly great art, they must set out to create a body of work, so as to make clear their worldview.  I find that when I watch several director’s movies, I have a good grasp as to who they are.  I can see the individual messages and feelings of all their films and get a sense of what’s important to them, and what’s not.  So I think Schaeffer hits the nail on the head in that looking at individual artistic pieces through the lens of the artists entire body of work can help inform what the artist communicates. Fantastic point, and a point I will probably carry with me as I critique pieces.

3. I love this:

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.

A nice reassurance that at the root of artistic creation is the desire to simply create something beautiful. In earlier passages he clarifies that a work of art is not simply a vehicle for messages or lessons and neither does the art work exist solely for itself (art for art’s sake?) but it is what it is: Art, meant to be enjoyed, meant to communicate, meant to force a different perspective.

4. Schaeffer takes a stab at abstract art. Not necessarily saying its useless but that its mostly useless because there is a disconnect in syntax. Meaning the audience can’t understand it. Have you read a novel where the words are jumbled in incoherent order? Does this strike you as particularly excellent penmanship? Probably not.

I tend to disagree with this assessment, though. Think of James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake,” a whole novel of mostly gibberish (Check out James Joyce reading it here. So cool!) The novel may not be the greatest communication, but think of it on a grander scale. What was the point? Is it still a novel? Is there any order to it? It pushes the boundaries and asks us what we’re reading. Many scholars have wondered and studies this peculiar piece, and while I don’t like the book, I can appreciate the point behind it. Much like I do with other abstract pieces.

5. Christians, read this:

As Christians, we must see that just because an artist-even a great artist-portrays a world view in writing or on canvas, it does not mean that we should automatically accept that world view. Art may heighten the impact of the world view, in fact we can count on this, but it does not make something true. The truth of a world view presented by an artist must be judged on separate grounds than artistic greatness.

You don’t have to agree with the message, the theme, the characters decisions, the worldview of the artist, to appreciate and enjoy the art work. Boom. *mic drop*

*pics mic back up*

Seriously, though, why is this such a hard concept to understand? You don’t have to agree to notice the beauty of the work. One of my favorite films is “The Fountain.” I disagree with much of what I interpret to be the message of the film, but I admire, so much so, the aesthetics and music of the film. It moves me every time I watch it. Artistic excellence. This is what we strive for, and if you disagree with what we’re saying, so be it. But admire the art, look at the form, bask in it. Judge that.


One thought on “Reading Art and the Bible Pt. 3 – The Mannishness of Art

  1. Pingback: Reading Art and the Bible – Pt. 4 “Critiquing Art and Worldviews Separately” | The Worship Collective

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s