Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Religion in Art and Why it Endures

I recently read two disparate articles on the subject of religion and art. One author said the only reason religion became part of art history is because it was forced upon artists by the Popes and Kings of former generations in order to decorate their cathedrals and sanctuaries. He contended that Leonardo DeVinci, Michael Angelo and others would have painted other subjects if it were not for the money and the power of the ruling class at the time.

Insett Kirke -- Norway

The author went on to say that if religion were such a driving force in the world, why don’t we see it in the cave drawings of ancient times? Because cave men, he said, used art for practical reasons: as communication to record what they saw and felt, to indicate danger, the cycles of the seasons, and the experiences and movements of their nomadic society.

Although, this may be true to a point, others contend that emotions such as joy, beauty, and hope are also recorded on cave walls, and comprise people’s spiritual hunger and nature. The second author believes this to be true. He links anything of beauty and inspiration to the fabric of a communities' religious and spiritual life expressed through art. The first author is obviously a skeptic or unbeliever, the second a believer. Which illustrates once again that religion and art are subjective and that there is truth in both points of view.

I have never painted a religious scene, or so I thought; but by the second author’s definition, several of my colorful and joyful paintings probably express my deep spiritual roots even though there is no iconic or obvious religious symbols. This may be the year to change all that.

I’ve noticed that religious art seems to sell well and at a steady pace. With Easter coming, I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring. The obvious starting point for me, is the Easter Lily. I’ve always loved their white symbolic purity. Why not?

The last time I had an Easter Lily in my house, its overpowering perfume made my allergies flare into a rage. I finally had to place the plant outside, but not before snapping some wonderful photos. I’ve wanted to paint a lily ever since. This may be the year of the lily. Today, I share my “work in progress,” and its first layers of paint.

At first I planned on naming the painting “The Atonement,” but decided on a more subtle title: “Fulness of Joy,” a passage taken from Psalms 16:11. I’ll share the completed painting with you in a few short weeks.