Thursday, July 24, 2008

Some thoughts on the arts

I know, I know; as an engineer, I should have the same use for the arts that a fish has for a hair dryer, if the stereotypes be honored, but I cannot help myself. I've spent too many happy hours in art museums and cathedrals to plunge into the depths of designing our lives around purely functional objects. We need beauty in our lives.

That noted, I can't go as far as many art types--more or less taking at face value the presentations given by the artists. Sorry, Donatello and Michelangelo, I know who is portrayed in those statues, and it ain't the shepherd boy who slew Goliath.

So maybe it would be good to consider what was known in Israel, and a good place to start would be to remember an unintentionally hilarious PBS special around 1991 on the Holy Land that claimed that there wasn't a whole lot of evidence of Jewish living there prior to King David.

Well, yes, those who read the Scriptures know what the situation there was prior to the son of Jesse, and yes, you won't find many relics from that kind of a society. Being invaded by the Midianites and Philistines will do that to you. The lack of items is, well, actually a demostration that the Bible's telling the truth about that era.

So we are left, more or less, to first consider the Tabernacle, later the Temple. What do we find?

Well, a lot of beautiful materials; gold, silver, bronze, cedar, acacia wood, and fabric with then-expensive colors like blue and purple. We find sculpture, needlework, and more. All of this, of course, pointing to the realities that God wanted to teach His people. It wasn't merely functional, but beautiful and (due to use of metals like gold) timeless.

So at least for our places of worship, we might find plenty of places for beautiful materials, artistically presented. Yes, we want to be careful about what the message really is, but it has a place. what about the home?


Gino said...

that sounds almost catholic.

although,we have a wide range of styles within the faith.
there is the ornate and gilded, designed to express the glory of God, and show glory TO Him as well.

then, my preference, is the rather simple and austere chapels you would find in a monastery setting that says: with God present, you need no distractions.

Sarah said...

I was at a 18th century meeting hall up in New Jersey recently. It had no decoration, but the architecture was beautiful and the woodwork all carefully tended to. Beauty can exist in different forms- ornate or simple. But I certainly do not see beauty in a building made of the cheapest materials possible- industrial carpet, theatre seating, linoleum. If I wonder whether I am in a school, office building, or a church, I think we can do better than that.

The catholics know a thing or two about beauty. I think there is a lot we can learn from them.

Bike Bubba said...

Gino, quite right--I remember noting to my (fundamental) pastor that I was uneasy because the church I now attend was "too nice." He graciously pointed out that one of the big reason "fundies" like me often worship in ugly buildings is that we were kicked out of the nice buildings as the liberal-fundamental split occurred.

The big problem I have with Catholic art is that (let's go back to the Temple again) I'm not exactly sure that it presents the same kind of picture that the Temple adornments did. That is, the cherubim are worthy of honor in the Holy of Holies (and were only seen by the priests, for what it's worth). I don't know that I can say the same about the statues of the saints in general.

Marklark said...

Good points.

Now what's this about the statue of "David?" Wikipedia doesn't have even a hint of scandal...

Bike Bubba said...

Mark, both feature nude, beardless men with foreskins. Nice Jewish boy back from the pastures, or Greek boy-lover of the artist? Fits the Greek model better than the Hebrew, I'm afraid.

Gino said...

I don't know that I can say the same about the statues of the saints in general.

you'd have to understand the practice and doctrine of saint veneration.

but remember: the chrubum(angels) were creations as well as any saint.
usually, there isnt that much in the way of saint statues in a church. mary, maybe joseph, and the angel michael.
in some cultures, you will find their patron saint in a position of honor, as well.
but none of these are above the altar. these are generally peripheral images, or off to the back wall, or in the narthex.

Sarah said...

Yeah, David had a bit of a scandal! He had a gold fig leaf for years and years.