Art by permission of Duncan Long
Not too long ago you couldn’t find a modern, Christian artist if you put a full-page ad in the New York Times and offered a reward. But I knew they were out there somewhere, slaving away in obscurity, waiting for the world to discover them.
Then along came the Internet, and now it’s almost impossible to hide anything or anyone. The web’s lack of censorship has become a two-edged sword for us. While it allows all types of garbage and dissimulation, it also helps propel Christian artists over hurdles they had faced for years.
With this has come a kind of arts renaissance for Christians. Painters, sculptors, dancers, filmmakers and poets seemed to just substantiate, as though God had said, “Let there be artists, and lo, they were.”
The reality is they’ve been quietly working their craft for years, although the church may not have noticed them yet.
This resurgence is especially surprising because of the noticeable lack of modern Judeo-Christian art in the West – a black hole caused by secular zealots and controversies over art in the church. Yet artists are optimistic about their future in spiritual or “sacred” art.
Even the hard sciences are sliding toward transcendental explanations when formulas and software don’t fully explain the unknown. Check out the new science books. How much more then should the arts, dealing with God-like qualities of creation and existence, not make the same turns toward spirituality, mysticism and philosophy?
Mark Lawrence, “Parting of the Red Sea: Exodus 14:16”
While mainline churches have supported art to some extent all along, (see the Episcopal Church’s efforts), a surprising change is also taking place in evangelical Churches. These culturally conservative bodies are slowly thawing toward some previously unheralded art forms, such as painting and modern dance.
Christian artists have somehow persevered over the last hostile 50 years, but are getting their public “groove” back. Churches host spontaneous spiritual painters, Christian graffiti sprays out the gospel and new books and magazines illuminate the rebirth. Art journals such as Image sponsor workshops, poetry, novelists and painters in the Christian tradition.
One of these, Ron Jones (also known as “The Enigmatist”) is a pen-and-ink artist from Washington. Jones’ complex and fascinating drawings refer to both biblical and personal themes, such as family DNA. They often have multiple layers of information and even mathematical expressions in the design themselves.
Jones’ piece “Cityward” uses the Fibonacci numbering system and an ancient Renaissance artist’s formula, the Golden Mean. You could get lost looking at these entirely hand drawn works and the fascinating explanations of their construction at his website, Worlds Through Ink.
“Cityward” by Ron Jones
Contemporary Christian artists are doing wildly new things, in keeping with the times and their own personal vision. Some of it is unorthodox and offbeat, but it is at least interesting and can be deeply moving.
“As Above So Below,” permission by artist Sandra Frazier
I’ll use the example of New York artist Sandy Frazier – inspired by faith, mystical artists and strangely enough, silent movies. Images from these shadowy, early films fired her imagination and fueled her first paintings. The silence inspired Frazier to create music CD of her own, and she wrote a book about the experience in “The Mystical Artist.”
Through the Internet and other modern media, Christian artists find a leveled playing field amongst more established, secular players. This includes free publicity and direct public feedback. Anyone can hang up an electronic shingle, communicate through blogging and use the platform to sell art. Those breaks are something many galleries, and especially academia, withheld from openly religious artists (excluding Tibetan monks) for the last 40 years.
Who would have thought that a maze of electronics, geosynchronous satellites and fiber optics might jump-start Christian art and worship? Yet technology continues to channel streams of modern culture into a sea we have yet to totally explore. Thank you Internet, for bringing Christian artists out their studios and into the church!