On Pastor Daniel Montgomery’s recent post “Our Vision for the Arts“, Ryan Broadhurst shared a quote worth reflecting on….
“When art comes to terms with both the wounds of the world and the promise of resurrection and learns how to express and respond to both at once, we will on the way to a fresh vision, a fresh mission.” – NT Wright, in Surprised by Hope
It seems that many artistic mediums accomplish this, when at their best.
In literature, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead at once deals with getting old and sick, along with savoring physical life while hoping for the resurrection. The main character John Ames reflects in a letter to be given to his son after his death, “I enjoy the hope that when we meet I will not be estranged from you by all the oddnesses life has carved into me.” He deals with wounds graciously as he bears in mind the promise of resurrection.
In film, last year’s Tree of Life seems to accomplish NT Wright’s vision. It gets a good head start on the first line of the trailer: “There are two ways through life – The way of nature and the way of grace.” It deals simultaneously with the death of a child and the glories of childhood; emotional turmoil and heavenly light; the cosmos full of violence, and the mystery and hope of eternity.
In music, the best songwriters don’t seem to have too much trouble putting the wounds of the world and the promise of resurrection side by side. Of course the best hymns do that, but even contemporary music does this. On my current list of favorites is Valley Maker. By retelling the stories found in Genesis, Valley Maker’s songs bring out the humanity of Adam, Eve, and the rest so clearly against God’s divine nature.
But then thinking about visual art, examples seem less readily available. This is probably because visual art is typically less narrative, but still…
In photography for example, it’s much easier to reflect upon the wounds of the world than it is the promise of resurrection. I recently came across Hin Chua’s fantastic series of photographs “After the Fall.” As the title states, these images are largely about the time after sin entered the world, but they’re only interesting because they also call to mind the wonder of Eden. The above image reminds me of Adam, maybe caught at the moment as he’s expelled from the garden. These images deal with “the wounds of the world” in human and environmental terms, and they recall something of God’s original creation. There’s a longing for Eden present here, but I don’t think I see the promise of resurrection in them.
Jeremy Begbie has given a talk titled “Subversive Hope” in which he uses the above image of a sculpture by Mozambican artists, also called “Tree of Life.” It’s a sculpture of a tree composed of decommissioned weapons. This sculpture might be the most straight forward example of visual art dealing with both the “wounds of the world and the promise of resurrection.” It moves past the wounds of the world toward that hope and promise of a world made fully right by Christ.
Can you think of other visual art examples?
Or can you think of ways your own art might deal with both hard realities of life on earth and the hope of eternal glory?