Makoto Fujimura is a highly acclaimed contemporary artist who is also a devoted Christian and is passionate about how faith and art are meant to interact with each other. In this collection of essays called Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture, he explores many themes and topics ranging from the impact of 9/11 upon his life and art since he lived only a few blocks away from the towers and was there on that day, to his thoughts on the sad defects of the modern art world, and to what I most loved, his thoughts on creativity and Christianity blending together into one harmonious whole, not existing as separate entities as the world has tried so hard to force us to think of them as.
So here are a few of the excerpts from the essays that most tantalized my thoughts and stretched my concepts of the arts, as well as video showcasing Makoto Fujimura’s project to illustrate the King James Bible in celebration of its 400th anniversary.
“A timeful experience is given when our minds are allowed to fully respond to the senses, to tap into the eternal reality that God opens for us via creativity. It’s what William Blake the eighteenth-century poet, meant when he wrote, “To see a world in a grain of sand, / And a heaven in a wild flower, / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, / and eternity in an hour.” In order to “see a world in a grain of sand.” We must pause to pay attention to the details of life, to let our eyes wander into the crevices of the earth below, to observe the shadows as well as the light, to perhaps even see how the light is refracted in the fragmental remains of the sands. And such observational skills must be cultivated as a form of discipline, even in the midst of the hectic lives we lead.”
“What makes us truly human may not be how fast we are able to accomplish a task but what we experience fully, carefully, and quietly in the process.”
“Art has the capacity to challenge preset presumptions about what we believe, to operate in the gap between the church and the world, and to address deeply spiritual issues, The power of art is to convey personal experiences in distilled language and memorialize them in a cogent manner, Such communication will resonate in the context of larger culture, The church needs to be involved in the arts and even advocate for those outside of faith, precisely because God has poured his grace in all of creation, and every artist, consciously or not, taps into the “groaning” of the Spirit.”
“Art is an inherently hopeful act, an act that echoes the creativity of the Creator. Every time an architect imagines a new building, an artist envisions the first stroke of a brush on a white canvas, a poet seeks a resonant sound in words, or a choreographer weaves a pause in layers of movements that act is done in hope; the creator reaches out in hope to call the world into that creation. And what if the creator reaches out to the Creator, the source and origin of creativity? Would not God be delighted? Even if no one else sees that offering, God alone can see. The treasures to be stored up in heaven (Matthew 6:20) can be our creative act done in faith. The Bible tells us the story of this creative God, who treasures his creatures, even as fallen and as desperate as we are. Jesus calls God “our Father in Heaven” (Matthew 6:9), and we are called God’s children (Romans 8). The Bible tells us that God rejoices in our acts of creativity, just as any loving father would dote on his child’s wild drawings.”
“What would our art look like if we truly believed that through our weaknesses, through even what we are ashamed of, we could create something that is lasting and meaningful, and incarnate hope back into the world? What if the power of a community is not in the display of power, but in the acknowledgement of our weaknesses? Artists can play an important role in helping a community to be authentic and honest. Japanese aesthetics already embraces the idea that weakness is beautiful: that what is wearing away and what is imperfect points to eternity.”
“There is something primal about dance that transcends all of the conventional concerns. Dancers embody the very ideal of the arts and fuse the spirit with the body. In other words, dance incarnates, and dancers bring this fusion into their bodies. God appeared in flesh via the babe in the manger, bridging eternal gaps in the incarnation: Flesh, therefore, is given the weight of glory. God came, supped as a man, and bled to bring our bodies and spirits to merge into heaven. He defined humanity within his own body. As Dutch art historian Hans Rookmaaker famously stated, “Christ did not come to make us Christians… but that he came to redeem us that we might be human in the full sense of that word.” Our Lord humbled himself to have a body, to make himself vulnerable, to be lifted up in ignominy, and to find resurrection in that glorious body. A dancer, in a single leap, seems to goer in between the indescribable gap between time and space, taking us with him or her. By doing so, the dancer embodies our souls in the public arena, and perhaps that is the dancer’s grand adventure.”
“… I suspect that all artists will eventually return to explore the direct connection with the physical and ethereal. Ideas must be incarnated; ideals must be embodied. No matter how much technology allows us to aid fast and easy conveniences, we will always be drawn to that first love and first touch.”
Now what do you think of his views on art and faith? Has it shifted anything in your thinking like it has in mine? Because I’d love to hear your thoughts so we can learn and grow in this together.