The Maker of Beauty

Oh, artists. We do think we own the world, really. We think we have MADE the world! How funny, that we assume so much responsibility. We think we are the makers of beauty, the ones who add worth to the world.

Artists, don’t be deceived.

Beauty is not ours, my friends. Beauty is given to us. The act of creating is only a participation in the larger act of the eternally creative Master of the Universe! We are His little kids, scribbling and scrawling to our hearts’ content, and He watches on with delight and affection. Nothing we do will ever compare — we can only reflect the imagination and perfection of the Creator.

One of my classes this semester is the study of aesthetics, especially in a global context. It becomes a very philosophical thing, to study “aesthetics” and “art,” for both are caught in a dance of opinion. What is beauty? Does it have to be beautiful to be art? Really, the questions are endless… and I’m looking forward to an entire semester (or more!) of thinking about the significance of art, especially for myself.

As I was reading for class last week, I found myself staring into space in quiet disagreement with what I was reading.

“[John] Dewey believes, and I agree with him, that ‘art’ does not refer to products of nature, but only artifacts. One reason for saying this is suggested by the phrase ‘work of art.’ There must be a person who worked on something before something can be a work. A rock may be quite lovely—smooth, delicately colored, gracefully curved—but we say it is a ‘work of nature’ only metaphorically. A rock can become a work of art only if someone—an artist—is responsible (at least in part) for the way it looks.”
Basics in Aesthetics, Eaton, p15

Whoaaa now. Talk about denial of the existence of the Creator! What a blessing it is to know that our God has plan, purpose, and vision for every thing created. He created it! He did, indeed, work. Interesting, isn’t it? A simple statement about the very basics of art and creativity, but a very simply denial that the things around us have a beginning and a Creator.

No wonder we have the most difficult time understanding the most simple truths! Each of us was created and has purpose — it is the basis for understanding who we are and why we are here! But if we deny that the things around us were also created with intention and purpose, we lose the foundation for that very basic understanding. It is the root of all our confusion and our despair.

The one thing that led me to understand my existence and purpose was the Theology of the Body. It was briefly introduced to me in casual conversation, but the explanation led me to the teachings — to a depth of wisdom that collides heaven and earth, spiritual and physical, into a single, cohesive perspective. I know who I am because I know my Creator. And in writing it, Blessed John Paul II starts with Creation!!

This world is not an accident. Creation is not an accident. There is an Artist responsible for all that exists, and the intrinsic beauty of it all doesn’t really depend on our opinion, experience, or interpretation. A ‘work of nature’ is truly a work of God, it is a work of perfection!

Pope Benedict said a couple weeks ago, “Art is capable of making visible our need to go beyond what we see and it reveals our thirst for infinite beauty, for God.”

Choose to believe that beauty is not “in the eye of the beholder.” It isn’t about opinion. Beauty is all around us! It is in nature, in people, in the differences of our personalities and circumstances, in our struggles, our emotions, in everything. We choose to see beauty, we choose to embrace it, and we are blessed when we do.


Sacred Art

“I think we need a more contemplative stance towards life, to see the deep religious and human truths that are there. We can only go so far with words and books. There is another level within us, a symbolic level or image level, that touches us very deeply. I think artists have the privilege in the Church, and they have had it throughout history, to open up that level so that people can see the mystery of God. The artist speaks, not just literally, but symbolically. I think visual images, if they are well done, can move us there. That’s a ministry.”
—Brother Michael Moran, C.P.

“In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art.”  — Pope John Paul II

I’m really intrigued by the artists who are working to create contemporary sacred art. While our religion may be steeped in tradition, our lives are vibrant, changing, and expressive — and the art in our homes and churches should reflect that. At least a little more than they do right now.

My home parish is extremely modern, and I do feel like there are things lacking in our worship because of it… while the sculptures and stained glass in our church are more contemporary, they don’t really “speak” to me. They don’t have the emotional pull, the awe-inspiring factor, the contained beauty that reflects the faith and the life of the Church. And if we lose sight of the glory that art should bring to our faith, then we lose the point.

But let me show you some of the amazing things I have discovered recently:

Read More »