It’s a pretty big anachronism, but it’s an interesting question—if Paul went to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, what would he think? How would he interact with Kerstin Brätsch’s Matchpoint? What would he have to say about Cheyney Thompson’s Chronochrome Set 10? How would Christians today interpret Alfredo Jaar’s Lament of the Images or Rachel Harrison’s Alexander the Great?
Americans tend to be somewhat befuddled when it comes to art—we understand it as an outlet for creativity (Pinterest!) and readily assent to its therapeutic value, but certain art critics would question our ability to understand and dialogue with modern art on its own terms. Countries like France and Italy as well as Egypt and Turkey guard their art as priceless national and social treasures; Americans look at the works of Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock and are either confused or appalled that soup cans and paint drops are considered monuments of human creativity.
There’s a reason for this difference (which, for brevity’s sake, I won’t go into here), and it’s a good reason—the question that we want to discuss is, ‘What are Christians to do with modern art?’ Is it OK if it’s not obscene? What’s obscene? Is Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus pornographic—if so, is all nudity verboten? What about violence? Francisco Goya’s The Third of May is stark and violent, but so are Quentin Tarantino films—is OK to look at the former, but not the latter?
We sat down with Dan Siedell, visiting professor of Christ and Culture at Knox Theological Seminary and author of God In The Gallery (Baker Academic, 2008) to discuss Edvard Munch, Thomas Kinkade, and the importance of listening. Enjoy!
P.S. If you want to read more of Dan’s work on popular Christian art, you should click this.