“Christian art” and the importance of craft

Over dinner this weekend my friend Joel Armstrong was talking about some of his own experiences relating to “Christian artists” and the “Christian art” they produce. I don’t remember precisely the context of the conversation, but the crux was this: For whatever reason, the works created by “Christian artists” almost always lacked in craft, regardless of the subject matter.

This begs the question “why?” Do Christians consider subject matter more important than appearances? Do they not take art seriously, even if this is what they study in college — and, if so, is this mentality a product of the Church’s short-sighed sacred-secular mindset of the last century plus? Do they lack motivation knowing that the Church, however incorrectly, places a higher value on pious activities? Do they lack motivation knowing that the Christian community in general doesn’t value good art, believing they can get away with cliched paintings of crosses and angels?

Any other ideas?

Just after graduating, I was very leery about my own potential as a professional artist, but I still strove constantly to better my craft in the work I continued to create. Even in my impatience compared to many artists, I always aim to improve on my processes and products.

The next show in the JBU Gallery will be the banners of Wayne Forte. I got a sneak-peak of the exhibit on Monday. Forte’s work is new to me; I must say that I like his process — the layering, the use of texture and mixed media — which redefines a traditional liturgical implement. A lot of his pieces looked to me like southern folk art I’ve seen, an unrefined (in terms of craft) phenomena I’ve yet to personally understand. However, tucked into these more generalized and expressive lines were very well-crafted subjects. The best example was the white flower central to this banner:

I’d be interested to know why Forte chooses to create works that appear less refined when he possesses the ability to create works that would more widely be viewed as well-crafted. This is not to say that his paintings are not well done, only that the general population will probably perceive them to be sub-par. People with less knowledge of artistic process than I will probably give his work a cursory glance and quickly conclude that he’s no Thomas Kinkade (“Applause”) — whatever that means to them.

I fear I’m rambling at this point. Note that I’ve put this entry into “Personal reflection.” It is by no means authoritative.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

2 Responses to “Christian art” and the importance of craft

  1. Seth says:

    There are plenty of Christian circles that emphasize what we do for God, whether we have skill or not. And when we are able to create our own subcultures, we have a way of avoiding the art world ‘out there’ and of avoiding critique. I do think religious activities tend to have more value within the subculture than things like art, which have a less quantitative purpose. And hey, how many sermons have you ever heard about creativity?

  2. Pingback: Atheists on religious art « The Aesthetic Elevator

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