Alternate Arts

blogging the hell out of art

February 18, 2017
by jimwall

8 Great Reads on Christians and the Arts (Part 2)

In part 1, we shared four books that dig into what it means to be an artist not only in a secular culture, but also in a modern church culture that hasn’t always supported arts or artists. Here’s part two of 8 great reads on Christians and the arts…

Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, by H.R. Rookmaaker. After a brief, but effective, dip into art history, Rookmaaker burrows to the roots of contemporary culture, and then steps boldly into modern art of the 20th century before finishing with thoughts on living out faith in the culture that God has placed us. Rookmaaker is at his strongest when offering observations on modern art that can only come from a Christian worldview

“This art is the work of your neighbors, your contemporaries, human beings who are crying out in despair for the lost of their humanity, their values, their lost absolutes, groping in the dark for answers. It is already late, if not too late, but if we want to help our generation we must hear their cry. We must listen to them as they cry out from their prison, the prison of a universe which is aimless, meaningless, absurd.”

As an honorable mention, Rookmaaker’s book The Creative Gift, is an outstanding collection of essays on art and the Christian life.

Walking on Water, by Madeleine L’Engle. If nothing else, L’Engle knows how to stir the imagination, whether you’re a nine-year old experiencing A Wrinkle in Time, or an ninety-year old wrinkling with time.  L’Engle’s reflections on faith and art masterfully blend the inherent mysticism of art with the striking reality that we are not fully alive unless we are creators…

“What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint or clay or words. Creativity is a way of life, no matter what our vocation or how we earn a living. Creativity is not limited to the arts or having some kind of important career. Several women have written to me to complain about A Swiftly Tilting Planet. They feel that I should not have allowed Meg Murry to give up a career by marrying Calvin, having children, and quietly helping her husband with his work behind the scenes. But if women are to be free to choose a career as well as marriage, they must also be free to choose the making of a home and the nurture of a family as their vocation; that was Meg’s choice, and a free one, and it was as creative a choice as if she had gone on to get a Ph.D. in quantum mechanics. Our freedom to be creators is far less limited than some people would think.”

Addicted to Mediocrity, 20th Century Christians and the Arts, by Franky Schaeffer. Scathing. Raw. True. This is the book to read if you want to be jolted, confirmed in your convictions, and encouraged by someone who knows you’ve likely be ignored by the church. Kurt Mitchell’s illustrations are perfect.

Although most of the book is at nearly rant level (and that’s a good thing!), this excerpt focuses on a key understanding of God…

“We could live in a flat uninteresting world, one that had the bare minimum of gray ingredients to support life, one whose diversity was only enough to provide the minimum of existence. Instead, we live in a riotous explosion of diversity and beauty. We live in a world full of ‘useless’ beauty, we live in a world of millions of species, we live in a world peopled by individuals of infinite variety, talents, abilities, and this is only on our planet. When one looks heavenward and sees the complexity of the reaches of space above us, the mind boggles at the creativity of God.”

It was Good, Making Art to the Glory of God, by Ned Bustard (author, editor.) A collection of 21 essays on art, art-making and artists. Featured contributors include Makoto Fujimura, Tim Keller, Charlie Peacock, and Steve Scott. Bustard organized and published these essays, and contributes a chapter on “good.”

From Bustard’s chapter… “God’s pronouncement on creation transcends mere usefulness because the evaluation of creation’s goodness came before anyone could use it. For example, following the creation of light, God said that, ‘it was good.’ This is not just a pragmatic ‘good,’ because at that point in the sequence of creation there were no plants existing to conduct photosynthesis using the light, and no humans to work and play in the light. The light merely existed and it was good… The universe was made by God, it conformed to His nature, reflected His image and therefore was pronounced ‘good.’ Though it is drastically altered in the Fall, this goodness of creation has not been obliterated. It can still be seen in the beauty of the earth, and in Man the image-bearer of God.”

A companion collection of essays, also compiled by Bustard, is It was Good, Making Music to the Glory of God.

An Alternate Arts interview with Ned Bustard can be found here.


What books did we miss? Let us know in the comment section.

February 11, 2017
by jimwall

8 Great Reads on Christians and the Arts (Part 1)

A little encouragement goes a long way. There are many Christian writers who have wrestled with what it means to be an artist not only in a secular culture, but also in a church culture that hasn’t always supported them or their creativity. Here’s part one of 8 great reads to help you along.

Art Needs no Justification, by H.R. Rookmaaker. Razor thin at 61 pages, this book neither wastes, nor minces, any words. Rookmaaker describes the historic role of the artist, implications for today, the church’s response, and the Christian artist’s task. The last chapter offers some guidelines for artists. Here’s an excerpt: “If in this way art has its own meaning as God’s creation, it does not need justification. It’s justification is its being a God-given possibility.”

Like a House on Fire, by Steve Scott. Approach Scott on his own terms and you’ll be richly rewarded. Scott writes about what it means to be an artist in a postmodern culture, because he is an artist in a post-modern culture. A songwriter, poet, author, artist, performer since the early 80’s, Scott has an unerring artistic vision which strips away any layers of insincerity in his work, and forces us to a place of authenticity in our own faith and art. Here’s a kick-in-the-pants from the book…

“There are many examples in the Christian subculture of poorly executed art propped up with appeals to the spirituality of the artist’s intentions or, worse still, the Bible itself. This practice is dishonest and sets a dangerous precedent in terms of biblical interpretation; passages of scripture are ripped from their context, twisted and misapplied. The artmakers insulate themselves from any critical discussion of their work and from genuine growth in their skills.”

See Scott’s Love in the Western Word video

Read Scott’s blog, and facebook page

Check out Scott’s work with the Christian Artist Networking Association, which “is committed to learning better ways of engaging, connecting and empowering art makers in different parts of the world.”

Imagine – a vision for Christians in the arts, by Steve Turner. Growing out of a series of lectures given to musicians in Nashville and Los Angeles, Imagine is a healthy and helpful reflection on what it means to be a Christian artist, with the wit and encouragement of an author who has written books as diverse as A Hard Day’s Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song (1994), Amazing Grace: John Newton, Slavery and the World’s Most Enduring Song (2005), and The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend (2004).

Here’s a snippet: “What the Bible does give us is actually more substantial than a detailed guide. It gives us basic doctrines that can be applied to any art form in any age, and it gives us the wonderful example of itself. The Bible is a work of art that not only has survived over the centuries but has inspired artists in every generation since it came into being.”

An Alternate Arts interview with Steve Turner can be found here.

Art and the Bible, by Francis Schaeffer. Very few people knew what the term “christian worldview” meant, much less lived it, until Schaeffer’s prodigious writing and lifestyle taught/modeled it. All of Schaeffer’s books are good for understanding culture and the Christians’ unique place in it as salt and light. Art and the Bible provides (still) refreshing perspectives on art, while offering four useful standards with which to judge art. Schaeffer was particularly thoughtful in applying scriptural themes to art, and helped Christians recognize the difference between artists’ individual pieces of work and their body of work.

Note the sensitivity in Schaeffers’ writing: “When Giacometti pictures the awful alienation of man, he makes figures which are alienated, but he is still living in God’s world and is still using the common symbolic forms, no matter how he distorts them. He plays with the vocabulary, but the vocabulary is still there. So there is a communication between Giacometti and me, a titanic communication. I can understand what he is saying, and I cry.”

February 4, 2017
by jimwall

Guess where, and win a shirt

First person to tell me where this is wins a free Alternate Arts t-shirt.

You must give the building name and city to win. We’ll send the t-shirt anywhere in the world.

Respond by commenting on our facebook post, and we’ll message you back.


By the way, the text reads…

“Art deals with things forever incapable of definition and that belong to love, beauty, joy and worship. The shapes, powers and glory of which are forever building, unbuilding and rebuilding in each man’s soul, and in the soul of the whole world.”