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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Art: As Mucking About in Creation.

 "We should expect art to be more oblique. And instead of asking artists to show us God, we should want them to reveal the world—to expand the world, to make worlds that expand creation with their gifts of co- and sub-creative power. The calling of painters and poets, sculptors and songwriters is not always and only to hymn the Creator but to also and often be at play in the fields of the Lord, mired and mucking about in the gifted immanence that is creation. With that rich creational mandate, a Christian affirmation of the arts refuses the instrumentalist justification that we "find God" in our plays and poetry." (Jamie Smith online for Comment)

A few weeks back I wrote to explore the question: Can Art Be Kingdom Missional and Remain Art? I made a case that art is Kingdom missional when it turns people to the Story animating the world's story. I still think such is art's most exquisite calling. However, I also recognize art-making has intrinsic value as human expression of culture, and thus, inestimable value.

Today, I came across this quote in a Christianity Today article entitled "Culture in an Age of Consumption,", and love the idea of artists who follow Jesus assuming the creative freedom to "be at play in the fields of the Lord, mired and mucking about in the gifted immanence that is creation." Creative, artistic freedom requires mucking about to stumble into what might be, to find the stunning idea or uncover the hidden gemstone in the scree.

Another helpful way to think about art making is what James Davison Hunter quoted in the article terms "faithful presence," i.e., the creative making of culture, using the imagination to open our sensibilities to fresh encounters with the world God has created, and what we've done with it for good or evil. Just adding to the artistic oeuvre in the world; being a part of the creative dialogue . . . making something that didn't exist an hour, day or month ago.

Artists need the freedom to be subtle and oblique; to hint at possibility and mystery; to gesture as in a slight turn of the head or quick glance; to play and stumble into discovery, be in your face to help us squirm at true horror, or let 'er rip about just being alive. Art frames and ornaments human existence in unique fashion whether accessible in the moment or not.

And there are much worse ways under the sun of spending our "three score and ten" than artistically mucking about in "the fields of the Lord."
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