Beyond Aesthetics: The Artist as Practicing Theologian

Beyond Aesthetics: The Artist as Practicing Theologian

I propose that visual literacy is functioning in Christian communities as a frequently unbidden practice for spiritual development, including denominational particularities and non-religious cultural influences. Today visual imagery rivals the verbal as primary source material for Christian formation, or lack thereof.

By expressing a personal consideration of the holy through her visual work, the Christian artist provides the viewer with new ways of knowing God that are mediated through the viewer’s sense of sight. Yet this opportunity for a visual bridge to encounter with the holy may go completely unnoticed on the part of the viewer. In “Beyond Aesthetics: The Artist as Practicing Theologian,” I aim to consider ways to attune and deepen spiritually formative modes of communication between artist, art and viewer in the context of religious practice.

Yes, we all know that culture today is visual, permeated with a continuous stream of imagery. For us as human beings, the leading edge here is our sense of sight. We absorb what we see, 24/7, and use this information to construct meaning - for better  or for worse. As creators of visual form, the contemporary Christian artist is part of this system. Her work competes for influential power with all of the other visual media, symbols and random visual experiences that bombard an individual each day.

Christian artists are creating visual work as a form of spiritual practice. We know from interviewing Christian artists that some use the process of making art to reflect on and work through their understanding of God. They report that their religious practice can be related to and informed by their art. This is faithful work (after Lisa De Boer). Through the intimate perspective that artists’ faithful work provides, over time an atlas of spiritual inquiry is created and through exhibition is made available. This work embodies the theology of the exhibiting artists as expressed through their visual craft, recorded not with words but visually, through the process of art-making.


... to be continued ...

THEOLOGY THROUGH VISUAL MEANING - Exploring the study of God through our experience of what we see

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