The Purposes of Art

It has been said that the arts and play are what make us truly human. Robert Henri wrote that "Art speaks in sensations too subtle for words." God speaking through abstract art of Himself is what began my healing process during my time of deepest grief over the murder of our son. Art. . .reflects our culture, pushes for change in our world and can bring personal healing. Amazing.

My daughter is a trained music therapist. She has shared stories of how music has awakened the "dead" minds of patients with brain injuries or dementia; how traumatized orphans learn to talk; and so many other "miracles" that she has seen through the powerful medium of music. 

Choreographer Randall Flynn recently taught that God describes dance as being both redemptive and restorative. In Jeremiah 5, God promises to turn our mourning into dancing--it is celebratory as well.

It is grievous that too often art is seen as worthless or something that easily be discarded in our pragmatic rush to "be successful" in life. Art programs are cut from schools. Students are counseled to get degrees in "something useful" (meaning, will produce money). Historically, many churches have abandoned the arts except for a narrow use of music. Creativity and the power of the arts have given way to capitalistic goals. 

Visual artist, Makoto Fujimura, recently spoke at a conference which I attended. He put a very different interpretation on the "uselessness" of art. He said, "God doesn't need us. He is self-sufficient. And, in a mechanistic sense, the world doesn't need art. It is an "extra" and it is this very excess that speaks of God's love for the world. Creativity and the arts are the ultimate proof of the existence of God." 

In his most recent book, Silence and Beauty, Mako writes about the power of art and its purposes in healing. "Art is a cultural meal. It is served to be received in universal terms. Art can even be a rite, or at least a gesture, toward identifying the divide and then, possibly, offering a place of healing even in the midst of despair."

Without any background in art or preparation for this purposes, God chose to "offer a place of healing even in the midst of despair" for me. I wonder how many others have experience such a profound awareness of God because of art. I'd love to hear of your experiences.

Image by Makoto Fujimura, Charis Kairos: The Tears of God (from Crossway Four Holy Gospels)