My biggest Christmas present last year was a sturdy frame for the bird netting around our blueberry bushes. Some design and assembly was required. I decided nine posts would support it – some would be eight feet out of the ground and others eight and a half feet. As the assembly began, I dug the holes and placed the posts. Since in total I had dug 21 feet of hole, it was time to take a break and save straightening the posts for later.
As I walked away I turned to review the progress. Some posts were catawampus to the inside, others slanted out, and a couple looked like leaning tree trunks growing up out of the bushes. When I reached the house I told my wife, Sharon, to look at the sculpture I had made. I declared it to be “art”.
She smiled and said most people would say: “Come on, boy, that’s just some poles stuck in the dirt”.
She was correct – they would say that…and it was just poles stuck in the dirt. But, I reminded her that I had seen sillier things called art and people had paid thousands of dollars for them. We decided it depends on who does it and who says it’s art.
I can’t claim to be an art expert or an artist. My engineer’s brain leans heavily on the literal, realism side. (ex: the completed frame in the picture above looks more like art to me – straight and true.) I’m sure I’ve missed out on sculptures or paintings that would have been moving or thought-provoking if I had grasped the concept. And having someone explain it to me doesn’t always help my perception:
“Of course, you can see that this depicts the struggle of man versus machine.”
“Ahhh, yes. Thanks for clearing that up – I couldn’t decide if it meant that, or you were just making a frame around your blueberry bushes.”
Modern art can have meaning and beauty (The Vietnam Memorial Wall comes to mind). But there is also confusion present. That comes from what Sharon and I decided – it depends on who does it and who deems it art. The confusion arises because humans make the “art” and set the standards.
Reflection on human nature tells us several things (please note the use of the word “some”, not all):
Out of the many artists, some are insincere. They purposefully create silly things and silently mock those who declare them great works of art. They secretly laugh at those willing to exhibit or purchase them. And some of those who exhibit or purchase do so out of fear of being labeled unsophisticated – afraid to admit the Emperor has no clothes.
Some artists, motivated only by arrogance, strive to be shocking – and end up creating something repulsive and worthless. Yet, there are people who applaud their creativity and call them genius.
Art critics, museum directors and influential patrons have the power to set the standards. Some use that power on a whim – to create or destroy careers based on no foundation except the fact that they can.
In these respects, the art world is no different than any human endeavor. We can do a poor job setting standards – doing what is right in our own eyes, which often means whatever is to our advantage. Confusion abounds as we try to decide who is sincere and which standards to follow.
But, the confusion clears up when we turn to God and follow His standards. They are perfect and eternal – not changing on a whim, or following the latest cultural fad. His judgment is never clouded with the human frailties we’re plagued with.
In our actions and creations we can declare anything art. But, if God says: “come on, boy, that’s just some poles stuck in the dirt”, that’s all it is.
“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace” 1Co 14:33 KJV