Something has always kept me away from openly discussing my faith in connection with my work. Maybe it’s because I’ve never really had any interest in painting pictures of Jesus, which is what I thought a main component of “Christian art” was. Maybe that something is merely my sense that the discourse of theology has often times been dominated in the past by those who would use religion to oppress others and assert their idea of truth. As a product of a postmodern age, I find it alienating to be so assertive, conforming to the belief that I don’t really have the final say on anything, especially theologically. As artist John Baldessari states: “A word can mean everything and nothing; an image can mean everything and nothing. But I don’t think you can say, “This is this and this is that and there is no argument”.
In fact, studying art, I have found that most ideological work dealing with religious and political spheres often times tries too hard to affirm their position rather than explore, to proselytize rather than communicate. This can be seen through early uses of art in the church, which was typically used in a manner similar to propaganda rather than a platform from which to start a discussion. There is too much of an authoritarian element to that type of work, leaving the viewer with the possibility of a simple acceptance/denial response; you either believe it, or you don’t. The end.
I’ve never been interested in this sort of “dialogue” (I’m hesitant to even call it that, to be honest), since this is hardly the type of reaction that leads to long-term engagement with a wide demographically diverse audience.
However, through working in an atmosphere like Trinity alongside of committed artists and Christians, as well as studying work that would not be traditionally defined as religious only to find underlying tones of belief and faith, I have come to the realization that perhaps by participating in that discourse, a bit of it can be reclaimed.
So what does a stack of papers or cut out letters have to do with faith? For me, it’s all about recognizing who you are and who others are, and accepting it for what it is: we’re human. And because of this, we do have anxieties and fears; we are vulnerable and finite, just like the paper in the stacks. However, like that same paper, we can be restacked, rebuilt, and most importantly, resurrected.