Posts tagged with: art

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…)

4669122802_1eb4ba97de_zTeaching our children about the value and virtues of hard work and sound stewardship is an important part of parenting, and in a privileged age where opportunity and prosperity sometimes come rather easily, such lessons can be hard to come by.

In an effort to instill such virtues in my own young children, I’ve taken to a variety of methods, from stories to chores to games, and so on. But one such avenue that’s proven particularly effective has been taking in Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies, a remarkably artistic set of 75 animated shorts produced from 1929 to 1939.

Spun from a mix of myths, fables, fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and original stories, the cartoons evolved from simple, musical cartoons to cohesive tales that offer ethical lessons. Although the whole series is well worth taking in, I’ve provided highlights of 8 particular cartoons that have struck me as quite powerful. Each offers a splendid mix of humor and artistry that you’d be hard pressed to find in today’s cartoons, but they also offer healthy prods to the imagination when it comes to how we approach work, wealth, and stewardship.

1. Beware of Short-Term Solutions — Three Little Pigs (1933)

Perhaps the most famous of the series, “Three Little Pigs” went on to win numerous awards and spur several off-shoot shorts. Unlike the traditional tale, it avoids the deaths of pigs 1 and 2, yet it still offers the same striking parallels to Jesus’ parable of the wise and the foolish builders. (more…)

Mako Fujimura

Mako Fujimura

ArtPrize, by any measure, is a successful venture. It allows artists to reach a huge audience, gives hundreds of thousands of people the chance to experience a variety of art, and gives the city of Grand Rapids a terrific financial boost. There are, though, thoughtful critiques of the ArtPrize experience.

Mako Fujimura, whose “Walking on Water – Azurite” was showcased at the Acton Building during ArtPrize 2014, is concerned about some aspects of ArtPrize. He wrote about his experience on his website, in a piece entitled, “Toward Culture Care: Why the ArtPrize helps artists…and why it does not.” While his overall experience with ArtPrize was positive, Fujimura is particularly concerned that artists, who he says are by nature introverts, need care during what can be an overwhelming event. (more…)

artist Audrey Assad

artist Audrey Assad

I’ve been following an interesting discussion at NRT, a Christian music website, regarding whether an artist is “really” Christian or not. NRT, on its Facebook page, had announced that singer Audrey Assad, known for her hauntingly beautiful Christian music, had made the decision to go mainstream. She gave her reasoning on her own blog. NRT had also commented on the band Switchfoot, who announced they’d be touring with Michael Gungor. Gungor is rather “notorious” in some Christian circles for stating that he does not take all of the Bible literally (for instance, he believes much of Genesis to be symbolic or allegorical in nature.)

Let the backlash begin.

Lots of folks chimed in on the NRT Facebook page with negative comments: “Don’t give me the mess about reaching a wider audience or not being full time into the ministry. Either you are or aren’t.” “To me, leaving Christian music to perform secular music is similiar to a dog going back to his vomit.” “Think I’ll pass until Switchfoot decides whom they serve.” You can read more there if you wish.

This raises an interesting question: must one be in full-time ministry to be a Christian? The answer is, of course not. Most of us Christians are NOT in paid, full-time, ministerial positions. We have regular old jobs: soccer coaches, secretaries, entrepreneurs, wait-staff, lawyers, landscapers. We don’t preach sermons or teach theology. We are active in are churches, sure, but that’s not our job. Why then are these Christian musicians being held to a different standard? (more…)

Makoto Fujimura

Makoto Fujimura with his personal copy of The Four Holy Gospels at Acton University 2014

What does it mean for Christians to use our gifts to fulfill God’s purposes in cultural flourishing? Makoto Fujimura, internationally renowned artist, intellectual, and founder of the International Arts Movement, is well placed to address this question. In this edition of Radio Free Acton, Fujimura joins host Paul Edwards to discuss his art, his story of faith, and how a “culture care” mindset can change the way we look at a wide range of issues. It’s a wide ranging conversation, and you can listen via the audio player below.

You can download your own free copy of Mako’s plenary address from last week’s Acton University conference – “Culture Care: From Common Grace to Loving Your Enemies” –  at the Acton Institute Digital Dowload Store; it’s available in the “2014 Evening Talks” category. While you’re there, be sure to check out our still-growing collection of lecture audio from the conference; nearly 90 lectures are currently available for purchase including talks from the likes of Peter Kreeft, Peter Heslam, Judge Andrew Napolitano, and Ross Douthat, among many others. And don’t forget to check out For The Life Of The World: Letters To The Exiles as well in order to see Mako’s contribution to Acton’s latest curriculum series.

Additionally, you can follow Mako on Twitter: @iamfujimura; Be sure to check out the Radio Free Acton archive; And last, and certainly not least, be sure to follow the amazing @ActonUnicorn twitter feed as well. If Makoto Fujimura enjoys it, why shouldn’t you as well?

washington1One of the best books I’ve ever read on American history is Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer. I’ve always been an admirer of the painting Washington Crossing the Delaware by German American artist Emanuel Leutze. The painting of course has been criticized by commentators for its inaccuracy. Fischer notes in the first chapter of his book:

American iconoclasts made the painting a favorite target. Post-modernists studied it with a skeptical eye and asked, “Is this the way that American history happened? Is it a way that history ever happens? Are any people capable of acting in such a heroic manner?”

One of the interesting things that Fischer notes is that in the 1950s the painting was removed for a time from Metropolitan Museum of Art because “romantic history paintings passed out of fashion among sophisticated New Yorkers.” He also notes that “among the American people the painting has never passed out of fashion.” (more…)

allisgift1 - Copy (2)“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.” -Alexander Schmemann, from For the Life of the World

In Episode 1 of For the Life of the World, a new series from the Acton Institute, Evan Koons discovers the concept of oikonomia, or, “God’s plan for his whole household of creation,” realizing that the more specific areas and “modes of operation” that God has designed us to work within (families, businesses, governments, institutions) are meant to harmonize with each other.

To illustrate the idea, Koons compares God’s economy to music. Pointing to a xylophone, he notes that a xylophone has its own particular mode of operation — its own rules, its own economy. It works differently than, say, a ukulele or a trombone or an upright bass. Yet played together in proper harmony, each of these instruments coordinate their unique patterns and modes of operation to create something unified yet varied, rich and beautiful.

But Koons doesn’t stop here, eventually moving on to ask the even bigger question: “What is the actual song, anyway?”

The answer, we learn, is gift. We were created to be gift-givers, “crafted in God’s own image, with his own breath, crowned with glory and honor.” And “in that same abundance,” Koons continues, “he blessed us, and he said go, explore my world. Unwrap the gift of my creation. Bless the world with your own gifts.” (more…)

Yesterday, I had the honor of contributing to a panel discussion on the art of Margaret Vega here at the Acton Institute. Her exhibition is titled, “Angels, Dinergy, and Our Relationship with Perpetual Order.” Some fuller coverage may be forthcoming on the PowerBlog, but in the meantime I have posted the text of my presentation, “Death and the Struggle for Permanence” at Everyday Asceticism.

Excerpt:

Angels … represent hope amid the human struggle for permanence in a life so characterized with the dark and tragic side of impermanence, death most bitterly of all. Heraclitus found the fact of impermanence so essential that he coined the phrase, “You cannot step into the same river twice.” And Socrates memorably declared that all true philosophers do nothing but contemplate death. And, at the very least, we may say that every major religion offers a way to engage humankind’s most primal fear, the fear of the radical impermanence of death.

But does “Perpetual Order” depict true hope amidst this struggle? On the one hand … the angels are symbols of permanence amid impermanence. On the other hand, however, on the panel hanging in the meeting room to the left of the gallery and on the panels on the gallery’s south wall, we see how the angel’s wing bleeds onto the blackboard, ready to be erased. Here we can see most especially that angels are not themselves the permanence for which we hope and may just as easily represent the ephemeral nature of our hopes as their certainty. Margaret even shared a story with us earlier about a graveyard in Mexico City where stone angels had been reduced to rubble after a major earthquake.

Read more . . . .

Madonna of Bruges

Madonna of Bruges

Robert M. Edsel’s The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History is a terrific book regarding a part of World War II history that few are aware of. One of Hitler’s goals was to amass great art for his personal collection, and to built a museum and a cathedral in Linz, Austria. What Edsel calls a “backwater of factories and smoke” would become, in Hitler’s vision, a cultural center to rival anything Europe had ever seen, and in no small part, to vindicate Hitler’s rejection from the Academy of Fine Art Vienna.

In addition, Herman Göring, Nazi Reichsmarschall, also wanted to create a personal collection of fine art, silver, and household items.

And thus, they plundered Europe.

While destroying “degenerate” art (such as Picasso’s and that of Jewish artists), the Nazis took hold of whatever they wished…and they wished for a lot. Göring literally stole train loads of art and furnishings. Michaelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges, the only sculpture of his to reside outside of Italy at the time, was unceremoniously dumped onto mattresses to be secreted away. The Bayeux Tapestry, a 224-foot long medieval work, dating from the 1070s, not only an art piece but a historical document, was hunted by Göring. After being moved to the Louvre for safe-keeping by the French, it was (as were thousands of other art pieces) crated up and hidden by the Nazis. (more…)

Gray Matters, Brett McCrackenIn his 2010 book, Hipster Christianity, Brett McCracken explored the dynamics of a particular cultural movement in (and against) modern evangelicalism. In his new book, Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty, he pulls the lens back, focusing on how the church more broadly ought to approach culture, particularly when it comes to consuming it.

Though McCracken’s book focuses on just four areas — food, drink, music, and film — his basic framework and the surrounding discussion offers much for Christians to ponder and absorb when it comes to cultural engagement at large.

In an interview with On Call in Culture, McCracken was kind enough to answer some questions on the topic.

Early on, you explain that your book is not about “making culture,” but about “consuming culture well.” Yet you also note how consumption and creation can intersect and overlap. How does our approach to consumption impact our creative output?

In order to be a good creator of culture, one must be a good consumer of it. We will never make great films if we don’t love the greatest films, know the greatest films, and understand why they are great. The best chefs are the ones who love food the most and take the time to consume it well — to pay attention to flavor profiles, to savor tastes that go well together, to understand what cooking methods work and don’t work, etc. The great artists in history didn’t just make their masterpieces from some innate mastery of technique. They studied the masters first and did the work of understanding why one painting or symphony was a masterpiece and why another one wasn’t. They were good consumers before they were good creators. (more…)