Art, Beauty, Interpretation
- Theological Aesthetics (2) : Creating to the Glory of God
Intellectuals Don't Need God and Other Modern Myths (Zondervan: 1993), pp. 178-9.
If the world seems attractive, the Christian must ensure that God, as its creator, is seen to be even more attractive. The world reflects the attractiveness of its creator, as the moon reflects the light of the sun. ¶ Two incidents from classical Greek mythology suggest themselves here. Homer introduces us to the Sirens, a group of women whose singing was so seductive that they caused sailors to crash their vessels through inattention to their duties. When Ulysses was attempting to sail his ship past the Sirens, he prevented the Sirens from causing any difficulties by the simple expedient of blocking his sailors' ears so that they could not hear the captivating Siren song. Orpheus, on the other hand, was a skilled lyre player. His method of dealing with this kind of threat was rather indifferent. He played his lyre, the music of which proved so enchanting and fascinating that its beauty totally outweighed anything else.
"A Free Man's Worship" in Why I Am Not A Christian, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957) 111.
But passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom; for not by renunciation alone can we build a temple for the worship of our own ideals. Haunting foreshadowings of the temple appear in the realm of imagination, in music, in architecture, in the untroubled kingdom of reason, and in the golden sunset magic of lyrics, where beauty shines and glows, remote from the touch of sorrow, remote from the fear of change, remote from the failures and disenchantments of the world of fact. In the contemplation of these things the vision of heaven will shape itself in our hearts, giving at once a touchstone to judge the world about us, and an inspiration by which to fashion to our needs to whatever is not incapable of serving as a stone in the sacred temple.
C.S. Lewis on Appreciation said...
The Four Loves (Harcourt Trade: 1971), p. 13-14, 16-17.
Pleasures of Appreciation are very different. They make us feel that something has not merely gratified our senses in fact but claimed our appreciation by right. The connoisseur does not merely enjoy his claret as he might enjoy warming his feet when they were cold. He feels that here is a wine that deserves his full attention; that justifies all the tradition and skill that have gone to its making and all the years of training that have made his own palate fit to judge it. There is even a glimmering of unselfishness in his attitude. He wants the wine to be preserved and kept in good condition, not entirely for his own sake. Even if he were on his death-bed and was never going to drink wine again, he would be horrified as the thought of this vintage being spilled or spoiled or even drunk by clods (like myself) who can't tell a good claret from a bad. And so with the man who passes the sweet-peas. He does not simply enjoy, he feels that this fragrance somehow deserves to be enjoyed. He would blame himself if he went past inattentive and undelighted. It would be blockish, insensitive. It would be a shame that so fine a thing should have been wasted on him. He will remember the delicious moment years hence. He will be sorry when he hears that the garden past which his walk led him that day has now been swallowed up by cinemas, garages, and the new by-pass ... But in the Appreciative pleasures, even at their lowest, and more and more as they grow up into the full appreciation of all beauty, we get something that we can hardly help calling love and hardly help calling disinterested, towards the object itself. It is the feeling which would make a man unwilling to deface a great picture even if he were the last man left alive and himself about to die; which makes us glad of unspoiled forests that we shall never see; which makes us anxious that the garden or bean-field should continue to exit. We do not merely like the things; we pronounce them, in a momentarily God-like sense, "very good." ... This judgment that the object is very good, this attention (almost homage) offered to it as a kind of debt, this wish that it should be and should continue being what it is even if we were never to enjoy it, can go out not only to things but to persons. When it is offered to a woman we call it admiration; when to a man, hero-worship; when to God, worship simply.
Camilla Paglia on Art said...
Salon.com (February, 2001)
Although I'm an atheist who believes only in great nature, I recognize the spiritual richness and grandeur of the Roman Catholicism in which I was raised. And I despise anyone who insults the sustaining values and symbol system of so many millions of people of different races around the world. An authentically avant-garde artist today would show his or her daring by treating religion sympathetically. Anti-religious sneers are a hallmark of perpetual adolescents. When will artists climb out of the postmodernist ditch and accept their high mission to address a general audience? An art of chic coteries, whether in rococo aristocratic France or in drearily ironic, nervously posturing New York, ends up in a mental mousehole.
Camille Paglia on Art said...
"My Case for the 'New Sexism': How a D.C. Art Gallery Celebrated Standards, Sexuality and Women", The Washington Post Wire Service, Sunday, September 26, 1993.
Issues of quality and standards have been foolishly abandoned by liberals, who now interpret aesthetics as nothing but a mask for ideology. As a result the far right has gained enormously. What madness is abroad in the land when only neoconservatives will defend the grandeur of art? Greatness is not a white male trick. Every important world civilization has defined its artistic tradition in elitist terms of distinction and excellence.
David Hume on Art and Taste said...
"The Epicurean" and "Of the Standards of Taste", in Essays Moral, Political, Literary (1748), Essays 15 and 23.
It is a great mortification to the vanity of man, that his utmost art and industry can never equal the meanest of nature's productions, either for beauty or value. Art is only the under-workman, and is employed to give a few strokes of embellishment to those pieces, which come from the hand of the master. ... Art may make a suit of clothes; but nature must produce a man. ... All sentiment is right; because sentiment has a reference to nothing beyond itself, and is always real, wherever a man is conscious of it. But all determinations of the understanding are not right; because they have a reference to something beyond themselves, to wit, real matter of fact; and are not always conformable to that standard. ... Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of others.
Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, by Edmund Burke (1844) Part I. Sect, XIX.
The variety of the passions is great, and worthy, in every branch of that variety, of the most diligent investigation. The more accurately we search into the human mind, the stronger traces we everywhere find of His wisdom who made it. If a discourse on the use of the parts of the body may be considered as a hymn to the Creator, the use of the passions, which are the organs of the mind, cannot be barren of praise to Him, nor unproductive to ourselves of that noble and uncommon union of science and admiration, which a contemplation of the works of Infinite Wisdom alone can afford to a rational mind; whilst referring to Him whatever we find of right, or good, or fair, in ourselves, discovering his strength and wisdom even in our own weakness and imperfection, honoring them where we discover them clearly, and adoring their profundity where we are lost in our search, we may be inquisitive without impertinence, and elevated without pride; we may be admitted, if I may dare to say so, into the counsels of the Almighty, by a consideration of his works. This elevation of the mind ought to be the principal end of all our studies, which, if they do not in some measure effect, they are of very little service to us.
Eric Metaxas on Art and Evil said...
"To End All Christian Films" in Books and Culture (July/August 2002, Vol. 8, No. 4, Page 6)
What Christian films — and Christian "art" in general — have lacked is a willingness to portray evil convincingly. It was Milton's Satan and Dante's Inferno that made them two of the most powerful Christian artists of all time. Because they understood evil and did not shrink from it, their depictions of goodness had power. In order to be redemptive, art has to convince us there is something real from which we need redeeming. Conversely, much secular art in the last half-century illustrates confusion and pain brilliantly but provides no antidote. The screeching hell of marital discord in Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives puts the viewer as close to seeing the need for God as any "Christian film" ever has, but stops there. Ditto John Updike's anti-paeans to adultery and suburban ennui; he limns the darkness all so well, so perfectly — too perfectly — and then splits for the golf course. We get universes of darkness without light, and from Christian "artists" we get watts of light without darkness. So it seems a little chiaroscuro is generally in order. Early on in the movie, at Mclean's funeral — which is a genuine Christian funeral rather than the papier-mâché facsimiles Hollywood usually gives us ("dearly beloved, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and so on) Miller reminds his fellow prisoners that "there is suffering before glory, there is a cross before the crown." That says it.
Gary Kamiya on the Avante Garde said...
"Loudmouths and Legends", Salon.com (May 16, 2001).
Again and again, the authors of these manifestos open with a mighty trumpet blast, issuing the most lofty and passionate denunciations of the imbecilic, stale, decadent, safe, bourgeois, vile, outmoded, mechanical, academic, etc. tradition they are rejecting. But when it comes time for them to reveal their epochal new vision, the mighty doctrine that will overthrow the past, turn art on its head and lead mankind into a dazzling new era of truth and beauty, it turns out to be, well, "spatial forms arising from the intersection of the reflected rays of various objects" (Rayonists Mikhail Larionov and Natalya Goncharov). Or a theater in which the actors read aloud from their parts (the Russian symbolist Fyodor Sologub). Or a placard proclaiming "No Girdle!" (The nunist Pierre Albert-Birot, who also incorrectly asserted that nunism is "an 'ism' to outlast the others.") Without discounting the originality of these ideas — rayonist paintings are among the first abstract works ever executed, Sologub's theater anticipates Brecht, and Birot would have burned Andy Warhol in a game of one-on-one — after the mighty windup, there's something banana peel-like about these aesthetic punchlines.
Gene Edward Veith, Jr. on Art said...
State of the Arts: From Bezalel to Mapplethorpe (Crossway Books: 1991) p. 165.
This does not mean that Christianity can be successfully expressed in every style. Some styles are wholly interwoven with aberrant philosophies (indeed, such styles are often nothing more than philosophical statements, which is why they are so bad aesthetically). Sometimes, Christians follow a particular style uncritically without recognizing the implicit contradictions between their faith and the style they are using to express it. Such incompatibility between form and content results in bad Christian art. (Late Victorian sentimentality, heavy metal nihilism, and pop culture consumerism would not seem to accord with a Biblical sensibility, but such misbegotten hybrids fill the Christian bookstores.)