A window on heaven
Leafing through an old journal a few days ago, I saw a quote pulled from a book. It read like this:
"Art is, in the final analysis, a window on heaven."
This simple yet profound statement was from The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God, (John Eldredge), which I read many years ago. The overarching themes of the book center around our hearts engaging with God's unfathomable love for us, and yet the one sentence I focused on and highlighted was about art. It's really no surprise in many ways. I have thought about the relationship between art and spirituality since college when I wrote my dissertation on this very subject. Finding voices that echo my thoughts is always an arresting experience. Yet I find it's much easier to state something than actually explain why this is true. If, as the quote reads, art is a window on heaven, why don't we spend more time creating art and delighting in the wonder of visually representing the intangibles of life? Why has the contemporary elite culture of art produced something far from being a window on heaven?
There are many minds far greater than mine that study and write about this subject, so here in this post I am just going to speak from my heart. When I create art I find myself developing a relationship with the thing I've created. Art is a vehicle for love. Each pencil mark or brush stroke is a devotional act that moves an empty space into a created thing. I lean into the art with my heart and I can honestly say that the creation of a sketch or painting is far more than an academic exercise. To reduce it to such is to take the soul and spirit out of what is being made. So, assuming that on some level all artists give themselves fully to the creation process, art, therefore, represents the heart of people - what is happening inside them internally.
If we look across the landscape of art today, much of it is jarring to the soul, like a cry, a blasphemy, a lusting, a denigration of the high view of beauty that has been known to previous generations and over the past millennia. There are, of course, exceptions, but the trajectory of art in the twentieth century reveals what is in the heart of traumatized humanity rather than what is in the heart of a beautiful God. Perhaps art in its un-redeemed state is a picture of society today. But there is a redemption that the Holy Spirit is working throughout contemporary culture which is a work in the hearts of artists who are making portals to the beautiful eternal. A created offering to a grieving world, one which heals and brings peace, settles a human soul like a baby in a mother's arms (Psalm 131:2).