I was at the “vernissage,” or opening for the potter photo expo. The room was wonderfully lit, full of chatter. People wandered about admiring the pictures of a potter delicately working clay. A student from Taiwan who knew I had some responsibility for the event walked up and asked me, “How do you combine art and Jesus?” What a GREAT question! She was a Christian, studying painting, who had come to Paris on a separate project put on by Campus Crusade. She desperately wanted to use her artistic talent for Jesus, but wasn’t sure how.
Well, every painting you do has to be of Jesus – okay, I didn’t say that, but that’s what some people think! It isn’t clear how you can combine art and faith without painting pictures of Daniel in the lion’s den or Jonah being thrown into the sea. It’s a question that many Christian artists wrestle with.
To prepare a devotion for the project I read two really helpful books on the subject. One was Art and the Bible, by Francis Schaeffer. It is short but very well done. The second was Imagine, a vision for Christians in the arts, by Steve Turner. This is a must read for any Christian artist, and held much of what I shared with this young painter. There are many different levels a Christian artist can touch, from expressing their world view to wrestling with themes like intimacy, betrayal or redemption. Suddenly, just having read a few books, I was able to help free this young artist to express her faith in new ways. She was so excited. She asked for my email address and asked if she could take her picture with me.
It’s hard to measure the effect a project like this has. People’s lives were touched, but we really don’t know beyond that. The highlight for me was the long conversation with this young artist, sharing some of what I’ve been learning about art and faith.