Show, don’t tell: Round 1
9 July 2009 6 Comments
Round 1 in the Show, don’t tell showdown: Patty Wickman versus ubiquitous Christian painting hanging in most every American baptist church.
Above is Patty Wickman’s surreal A Thief in the Night. Wickman, an art professor at UCLA, is a master (in my opinion) of turning beautifully simple subjects into powerful metaphors.
Which do you think is more powerful imagery? Which is more likely to cause the viewer to more deeply engage the subject matter? Which one employs imagination? Which one tells and which one shows? And (ironically) which one is more likely to change a person’s attitude or worldview?
Christians in the past 100 years seem to have forgotten how to be creative, use our imaginations, when communicating visually. For some reason we feel the need to reduce the Gospel (and any other theological tenets we hold dear) to what is more or less propaganda. We obviously aren’t reading our Gospels very closely. The parables are a prime example of using art — storytelling — to show people an idea or principle rather than just saying it out loud. Granted, the culture was different then than now, and we may not be able to do exactly as Jesus did, but the point remains: People won’t respond to a direct statement in the same manner as they will to something that is illustrated, painted, drawn out.
And, for what it’s worth, the painting of Jesus knocking at the door (of your heart as so many mistakenly believe) is based on a verse, as far as I know, that’s almost always taken out of context. The imagery is generally used to appeal to non-believers. In reality, the verse is speaking to the church of Laodicea in the context of repentance.