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Should a Christian artist paint themes from pagan mythology, other religions, or even fantasy motifs?
Many artists who are deeply grounded in their Christian faith, especially those just starting out in their career, have questions about what is and is not appropriate subject matter. In a previous post I addressed nudity and the Christian artist, today I would like to address subjects that don't seem to have anything to do with Christianity at all.
The story of our salvation is really the only story, and we retell it in endless variations. Even the ancient pre-Christian mythologies echo the story of Christ and His salvific role.
Think of it this way. Imagine time as a slow moving river. All of human history takes place within this river, from the first humans upstream to the present day somewhere further downstream. Each of us live out our lives in a current of this river, overlapping with others.
As humans our perception of time is linear. We look back upstream and see a sequence of events that have led us to where we are now. But God stands outside the river. God stands on the riverbank observing the passage of the stream. To God, all of our history is happening now, at different points along the river.
Illustration is often seen as a low art and is used as a pejorative term by modernist abstract or conceptual artists for those that try to depict the figure more naturalistically. I take the opposite view. The highest art is that which illustrates - or illuminates - well the highest truths.
Nudity has long been a staple of fine art, but many people feel it is inappropriate for an artist who is also a faithful Christian to portray nudity in their work.
Is it? The answer, as is so often the case in matters of faith and morals, is - it depends.
To modern sensibilities art is decoration. Usually, we are not called upon to look past the surface of what is presented. And so we focus on the external, that which we can see.
But creation consists of what we can see and what we cannot see, the visible and the invisible. It is the role of the artist to create work that draws us past the surface, what we can see, to contemplate the transcendent truth that is presented to us, that which we cannot see.
Picasso couldn't draw. Please don't tell me how well drawn his early stuff was. I have seen exhibitions of his work done in the academy and in my opinion, any average student could do better. I think he went for modern art because he knew he couldn't make it in naturalism. What's more, if a student in an illustration course had come up with this, they'd get an F for bad technique. He's a skilled self-promoter, I'll grant him that.