Category: Arts

“The cultivation of imagination is to begin to integrate life into faith and every other facet, whether mundane or extraordinary, whether 9-5 work realities or worship in a church. Imagination is key to the thriving God intends for us.” –Makoto Fujimura

makotoThe burgeoning faith-work movement has does a fine job of re-orienting our perspectives about the meaning of everyday toil and the importance of stewardship in the area of work and creative service. But one area that continues to suffer neglect is that of the human imagination.

The problem isn’t so much with imagination in a strictly “for-profit” or utilitarian sense. We all recognize the importance of the imaginative capacity of a Steve Jobs, for instance, insofar as he delivers some innovation or experiment or new convenience.

But do we have a more basic concern for cultivating and stewarding the imagination in and by itself? Do we see value and meaning in simply learning to connect reality with faith, truth with beauty? Do we recognize the type of long-view foundation it takes to even get to that more “useful” Silicon-Valley phase?

As Stephen Grabill reminds us in Episode 6 of For the Life of the World, we rarely give ourselves the time and space to pause and cultivate this corner of the human intellect, and even when we do, it’s often for the wrong reasons. “We need to develop a palate for what is good,” he says, “not just for what it can do for us, but for what it is in itself.” (more…)

In a land long ago and faraway, before shows like “The Bachelor” and “How I Met Your Mother,” there was “The Twilight Zone.” Remember the shiver you got when that music came on? And “The Twilight Zone” was never a “horror” show – no maniacs running around chopping teens to bits after sexually assaulting them, all on screen of course. No, “The Twilight Zone” wanted to get you to think … and maybe a little scared.

Take this episode: The Obsolete Man, starring the incredible Burgess Meredith. It’s less than 25 minutes; watch it. Some of it will ring quite true, I’m sure. You see, a humble librarian has been declared (just as ministers are) “obsolete” in a society where neither books nor God exist. The State has done away with the former and proved the latter. The librarian insists that no man is obsolete, but his fate appears to be sealed.

In his review of the Acton Institute’s film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, Andy Crouch noted its artistic merits, observing how well it conveyed “deeply Christian themes in widely accessible ways.”

“I can only hope that many of us will indeed watch and learn,” he writes, “and that we will then give ourselves away, as skillfully, promptly, and sincerely as these filmmakers have done, for the life of the world.”

Now, in response to the series, other artists are joining in on that endeavor. Inspired by each episode, Kayla Waldron, artist and founder and creator of PennyHouse Creative, has created some beautiful chalk art to capture the major themes of the series. Both individually and taken together, the pieces aptly illustrate the grand design and beauty of God’s economy of all things.

She’s been sharing them on her Instagram and Facebook feeds, and I’ve re-posted them below for your enjoyment.

Episode 1: Exile

Episode-1---Everything-Is-a-Gift

Episode 2: The Economy of Love (more…)

unknown artist from Japanese internment camp

unknown artist from Japanese internment camp

It is a disturbing part of American history: the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent and Japanese who were legally living in the U.S. during World War II. About 120,000 people were placed in internment camps in the western part of the U.S.

Life in the camps was harsh. The only furnishings were beds. There was no privacy. Many people lived in metal huts, which provided no protection from heat or cold. However, many of those interned were resourceful, and determined to make the very best of their situation.

Prisoners were denied any belongings coming in, and the barracks were furnished only with beds. There were no luxuries like tools, tables, chairs, or curtains for privacy. Later, they could order modest items by mail. But their ethic was of tremendous resourcefulness. Nothing was wasted. Onion sacks were unraveled and woven into baskets and cigarette cases. Tiny shells on the ground were collected for brooches for special occasions like weddings and funerals. Toothbrush handles were cut off and repurposed. An ugly stub of iron sewer pipe was incised with a bird and blooming plum branches to fashion a vase. A ring was made from a peach pit.

(more…)

Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
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Leonard Nimoy as Spock

Leonard Nimoy as Spock

Leonard Nimoy, best known for his role as Spock in the Star Trek television series and movies, passed away last week. For many of us, it was a sad event. Nimoy had created a memorable character that is an enduring and endearing part of our pop culture lexicon. While my colleague Jordan Ballor took a look last week at Spock’s “live long and prosper” tagline, I’d like to refer to the more human side of Spock and the world of Star Trek.

Stephen D. Greydanus at the National Catholic Register reflects on what Nimoy and Star Trek taught us about humanity. The series creator, Gene Rodenberry, envisioned a world where poverty had been eliminated, money was unnecessary, and creatures of very different origins learned to work together for peace and mutual respect. (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
Monday, January 19, 2015
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from the film "Ida"

from the film “Ida”

The film industry quite often gets religion wrong. Either the industry completely misunderstands faith (think Noah and the recent Exodus), or the movies are so saccharine that theaters ought to offer diabetes testing for movie-goers on the way out of the theater (Left Behind and anything else Kirk Cameron has been involved with). This is really too bad, because movies are an art form that have the power to move us, to make us think, to ponder more deeply critical questions of our fallen human nature, our relationships with others and with God.

Zelda Caldwell, at Aleteia, has put together a nifty list of ten great religious films you can watch now on Netflix. Each of these has their own merit, and there is a nice range of films included. I’ll note just a few here: (more…)

Blog author: ken.larson
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
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I’m not one of those folks who are glued to the tube, but some things on television grab and hold my attention. One is Masterpiece Theatre’s Downton Abbey, that just began its fifth season in the United States this past Sunday night. I was one of millions watching according to trade journal reports. As a promotion to the new season the producers created a supplemental trailer so to speak – oldsters might call it a “double bill” – titled Manners of Downton Abbey. You can see it online here.

The manners as depicted in portrayals of either Victorian or Edwardian England do clash quite abruptly with what most of us encounter and or display in our lives today. In the Manners Special we are allowed to view and listen to the various actors and actresses in the show as they comment with gestures and expressions that coincide with the major contradictions in the behavior they present on screen and the one they live in their private lives. Expressions like stiff formality, odd set of rules, no slouching, sitting up straight, wearing gloves at the dinner table, tend to characterize the dialogue.

Our tour guide for this show is a guy the producers hired at the start to make sure that the actors accurately portray their parts. Alastair Bruce is an “expert on British Royal Ceremony” and has a resume and Royal Order of the British Empire to prove it.

Nearly eight minutes into the Manners Special I heard Mr. Bruce say something that knocked me back. In describing the dining room etiquette he puts things in context with,

They say Grace at the beginning [of the meal] and that makes it the Lord’s table and all the detail and sumptuous display and the manners reflects the struggle they all have to achieve a similarly perfect moral approach to life. An immaculate presentation was a statement of moral correctness to all.

Granted, we do not – I don’t recall, ever – see the Crowley’s or for that matter anyone else actually say Grace in these Downton Abbey episodes. After all, this is public television, not Duck Dynasty. But it is comforting to know that Mr. Bruce has grounded intentions. Something to think about the next time you sit down with the family or have guests for dinner.

In a remarkable collaborative effort led by Dan Stevers involving 11 Christian animators and artists, the YHWH Project has released its final product: a sweeping and striking short film that paints a beautiful portrait of God’s abundant love and active presence.

Watch it here:

I’m reminded of that powerful bit by Alexander Schmemann: “All that exists is God’s gift to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man’s life communion with God…God blesses everything He creates, and, in biblical language, this means that He makes all creation the sign and means of His presence and wisdom, love and revelation.” (more…)

Taylor-Swift-SpotifyTaylor Swift recently made waves when her record label pulled her entire catalog off Spotify, a popular music streaming service. Fans and critics responded in turn, banging their chests and wailing in solidarity, meming and moaning across the Twitterverse about the plight of the Struggling Artist and the imperialism of mean old Master Spotify.

Yet as an avid and thoroughly satisfied Spotify user, I couldn’t help but think of the wide variety of artists sprinkled across my playlists, a diverse mix of superstars, one-hit-wonders, niche fixtures, and independent nobodies. With such reach and depth, had Spotify really duped and enslaved them all, leaving them brainwashed and helpless lest they rise to the courage, stature, and enlightened futurism of Ms. Swift?

Or could it be that some artists actually benefit from such platforms?

I’ve written elsewhere about the transformative effects of economic freedom on the arts — how unleashing opportunity, innovation, and prosperity has yielded unprecedented amounts of time, training, and resources, all of which can be used to create more art, and do so independently. For musicians, the cost of equipment continues to go down, even as quality goes up, and as artists continue to grab hold of these resources, companies like Spotify are swooping in to service the next step.

Much like Kickstarter and iTunes, Spotify continues to experiment with new ways of empowering artists, helping folks bypass record labels altogether (“the banks,” “the marketing machine,” “the Man”) and connect them more closely with audiences. Countless artists have jumped in. And yes, countless others have opted out, particularly the ones with cash, fans, and sway. (more…)

Good art is more than just something pretty. It touches the soul; it brings something of the Divine to life in a new way. Artist John Dunne paints from this perspective. Dunne had already developed a substantial career when he felt called to explore more sacred themes, particularly with Eastern influence. He says when he paints, he is “listening to the work.” He says that meditation on the part of both the artist and the viewer is absolutely necessary.