I like going to art sites in order to see what people are doing in the creative realm. Note: I also like reading, both for entertainment and to enjoy a well-crafted tale. There are challenges to going to an art site in that the human figure is often pictured. And, many times, the line between the beautiful and the merely erotic is crossed. Worse, once in a while the line between the merely erotic and the openly pandering is clearly crossed. So, why do I go to art sites? Well, there are several of quotes that may help me explain.
Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere. — G.K. Chesterton
There is at the back of every artist’s mind… the landscape of his dreams; the strange flora and fauna of his own secret planet; the sort of thing he likes to think about. This general atmosphere… governs all his creations, however varied. — G.K. Chesterton
Reason is the natural organ of truth, imagination is the organ of meaning. — C.S. Lewis
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. — C.S. Lewis
Art is a reflection of God’s creativity, an evidence that we are made in the image of God. — Francis Schaeffer
It is in art that I can see (or hear, in the case of a play) something of the creative image of God being expressed. The great 19th and 20th century British Christian writers caught a glimpse of what a relationship there is between imagination and image. The mid-20th century American writer, Francis Schaeffer equated art as being a reflection of God’s creativity. In one way, it is not surprising to me that the people who most deny God, the communists, have built some of the most soul-destroying architecture and have chained art to be the maidservant of mere propaganda. It should be noted that the fascists of World War II also chained art to their image, just in a different way than the communists.
In fact, I would argue that every place in which there is a deliberate distortion of God’s image, there is also a resulting distortion in art. As G.K. Chesterton commented in the quote above, “art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.” So, pornography is a great misuse of the image of God as presented in Holy Marriage. At the same time, the Song of Solomon (even if one argues that it is merely an allegory) shows that some eroticism is permissible, at least in written literature. The mind-numbing slasher horror movies, with their unending stream of dead bodies, make a mockery of the value of human life. At the same time, there are shows, such as Band of Brothers, that show strong violence while actually raising the human spirit, showing the consequences of national sins, and the value of human life. Movies such as Saving Private Ryan show the terrible effect on the human psyche of war while showing the tremendous courage that leads to giving your life to save another’s life.
Art, at its best, does not destroy the image of God, but may lead you to consider what you see and what you know in a different way. Thus the painting Guernica, by Picasso, expressed the horror of the bombing of that town and its aftermath, in a format which was neither salacious nor voyeuristic. The photograph of the running naked napalm-burnt girl from the Viet Nam War with other children running and American soldiers in the background, caught the horror of collateral damage in a way that was not salacious but certainly heart-rending. The Statue of Liberty has become an iconic symbol of the search for freedom and the welcoming that America used to give to immigrants. Who does not hear the Hallelujah Chorus in a performance without having their heart lifted.
So, I do go to art sites. I try to draw the correct line and be cautious. But, I go there to see whether I can catch a glimpse of God’s creativity, even while I am catching glimpses of human depravity. I go there to see whether some view or another will give me a new insight into God, and yes, sometimes into our sin. I go there because, “art is a reflection of God’s creativity, an evidence that we are made in the image of God.”