Why Art is Necessary | Week 31
By: Becky Brown
By: Becky Brown
On prophetic expression in the Gallery of God
This is a question that any artist will receive in the course of her creative process. Ask some Christian artists, and the question Why art? feels more pervasive in the Church.
Christians often hold art in suspicion. Some Christians are prone to be like Judas in Matthew 26, who regarded the woman with the Alabaster flask to be wasteful. The woman with the expensive perfume gratuitously poured out her life’s savings on the feet of Jesus. Jesus commends her for her gratuity. Why? Because God himself is gratuitous. In order to understand the lavishness of God, however, we have first to understand the brokenness of the world. Art communicates both brokenness and beauty.
Chelsea Horvath, an artist, minister, and alumna of Trinity Fellows Academy, has a penchant for viewing what some may think of as unusual things. However, in confronting the unusual, Chelsea finds the prophetic.
Prophetic art is a throwback to the days of Isaiah. Prophetic art is jarring as it reveals the brokenness of humanity. Think of the prophet Isaiah who in Isaiah 20:1-3 walked around naked as a symbol of exiles that were come out of Egypt, their buttocks bare, shaming Egypt as they walked away.
This doesn’t happen in the church anymore, and if it did, people would be sure to press charges on that whacko of a church-goer.
But, we do observe these kinds of punch-in-the-gut displays in art. Art is one area in which prophetic voice can be expressed and maintained.
While it may not be a good idea for your worship leader to start walking around naked to prove a point to people who have forgotten God, it may be good if church leaders could express truth about God in ways that are not comfortable and palatable for North American Christians to handle. For ideas or specific examples of what this may look like, ask artists in your church. I’m sure they would be happy to be asked about what it could look like to reveal a reality about God that most people don’t see.
Artists should have a role in the church to be able to express realities that the church may not see. Artists, as they steward their imaginations, challenge the church to love and to good works in a variety of ways.
After Chelsea Horvath spoke with us about prophetic art, Mark Potter, a sculptor and lover of created things ranging from molluscs to photons, unpacked the concept of the Gallery of God.
Art is not for artists or for galleries. Art is for God.
Creating art is not something that should be primarily about the artist. Christian artists are not to be whimisically self-indulgent. Instead, art is done out of love of God, love of neighbor, and love of craft.
God is the great Artist, the one who created what you saw and enjoyed yesterday and the one who continues to create today. God is lavish. He creates seagulls just for the fun of it, he paints different sunsets each evening out of abundant, life-giving love.
Anyone who is an image-bearer gets a job in the Gallery of God. We are not cultivators of an Edenic garden; we are people who get to work freely in creating a gallery space that neighbors want to come to and that God wants to return to. This is not exclusive to artists. The gallery needs managers, CEOS, janitors. Each person has a responsibility to delight in creating a gallery that doesn’t leave heaven in inaccessible abstraction, but brings it down to earth.
Last week we heard about perspectives in how Christians engage with art. These perspectives are not divergent. Perhaps the punch-in-the-gut kinds of prophetic art that society needs is the art that is done out of love of God, love of neighbor, and love of craft. Love, expressed through art, is not superfluous. It’s necessary.