Art speaks in way that words alone cannot for as well as presenting the image, it is instrinsic to art that it connects and establishes relationships, between the viewer and the prototype, via the image and using the imagination. This stimulates the faculty by which we ‘see’ the invisible through the visible and so is essential to the development and retention of faith in God.
Iconography and Iconology are the study of the sacred image and the symbolism of the content respectively. Jonathan Pageau is someone who is both a master craftsman and and a deep understanding of both. This has relevance in the Christian life way beyond the church building, it extends out into every human endeavor.
These are two old ideas that are new to many people today, and surprisingly they are connected. Pope Benedict XVI told us that the driving force for the New Evangelization is the Domestic Church. Prayer in the home focussed on a place set aside for it and marked by sacred images goes back to Roman times; the method of seeking to evangelize the post-Christian West termed the New Evangelization. So while the problem is new - how do we convert people whose parents or grandparents were Christian and think they already know enough about the Faith to know they don't like it? - the answer is the same as it ever was. We must be supernaturally transformed, shining with the love of Christ so people want what we have! And it is prayer in the Domestic Church that plays a crucial part in that personal transformation.
Links and quotes:
Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Ratzinger: on the New Evangelization
Way of Beauty blog article: The New Evangelization and the Domestic Church - Pope Benedict XVI on the connection between the two
Pictures of Roman home altars and dining arrangements, followed by a modern icon corner: