HOW TO VIEW AND APPRECIATE ART

The photograph to the left was taken recently inside Notre Dame de Paris (which means, Our Lady of Paris) by my brother. The architect and builders knew something about the Bible that we more modern Christians apparently don’t. We Christians build and decorate church structures that are often boring and lifeless. This reveals how far we have strayed from the place beauty and art are meant to have in our lives. As the late Francis Schaeffer notes in his book, Art and the Bible, we evangelicals tend to relegate art to the fringes of life. Despite our talk about the lordship of God in every aspect of life, we have narrowed its scope to a very small part of reality. The arts are also supposed to reflect the wonder, majesty, and beauty of God. 2 Chronicles 3:6 (NKJ) tells us that when Solomon began to build the temple he added precious stones “for beauty.” Does God value beauty simply for beauty’s sake? It seems He does. Following is a list that will help us to view and appreciate art…

  1. Respect the art.
  2. Take your time. One artwork viewed well beats dozens seen in a state of hurry &/or frustration.
  3. That said, see as much art as you can. The more art you see the richer your responses will be to new art images.
  4. What is the piece of art saying to you? Is it telling a story? Is it evoking a memory? Is the piece of art affecting you emotionally? Does it make you happy? Sad? Any other emotion?
  5. What is affecting you the most, the imagery? The color?
  6. When looking at art, before answering the question ‘What do I think?’ try ‘What did I notice?’ No opinions without observations.
  7. If you’re troubled by an apparent lack — not enough color, not enough imagery — try turning the doubt into a question. What would an artist have to gain by losing those things? What is s/he inviting you to notice? You may feel previously unnoticed aspects of a painting emerging with new sharpness.
  8. Try to imagine your way into the life of the art.
  9. If a work doesn’t feel as though it’s for you, try imagining the person it is for. Try stepping outside the circle of your accustomed tastes. You might even find yourself enjoying it.
  10. If an artwork’s giving you nothing, there’s no shame in turning your back. Remember, though, that if you don’t wade through art’s lows, you’ll not be qualified to register the highs.
  11. Trust your own impressions. Children often have piercingly accurate things to say about paintings because they haven’t yet been taught to distrust their first impressions and spontaneous associations. Tease out the significance of what you’re already seeing, rather than fretting about unseen meanings.
  12. Talk to the artist if you can. See if what you are observing from the piece of art is what the artist intended. Often you will find you have a different, but equally valid, observation/reaction from the piece of art. Artists love feedback!

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