Friday, May 30, 2008

Art/Christianity/Crossmans/Fromberg

I mentioned our church in the last post, and was reminded that the artists Wallace Crossman and his wife, who paints under the name of Rosalie Gillies, also go there. I’ve probably mentioned before that we have three of their works: one largish picture by Wallace and two by Rosalie. I say this not to boast, just to state the facts!
Wallace and Rosalie are the parents of children who also have artistic streaks; one daughter whose name for the moment escapes me, sculpts in Oamaru stone, and one of the sons, Bruce Crossman, who lives in Australia, is a successful composer.
Like his parents, Bruce is a Christian. On one site, there’s this statement: Bruce Crossman sees his music as an expression of the inner life (spiritual and emotional) in combination with a conscious intellectualism, which aims to express a ‘life essence’ to an audience.
There’s an even more focused statement on another site: I see the spiritual essence in my own work as an expression of a Christian faith whereby composition becomes a deep-felt emotion and spiritual sensibility linking heaven and earth.
Bruce’s music is barely known in New Zealand, his home country. Sometimes you just have to go outside your usual world to be heard. I’m one of the many New Zealanders who’s never heard his work. Years ago, when my wife and I were helping Wally and Rosalie with some interior decorating, Wally showed me the stage designs he’d done for an opera that Bruce had written. I don’t know if the opera’s ever been produced.
On the other hand, Wally’s designs for last year’s Narnia stage production (Prince Caspian) were well received.
All this is a typical bit of rambling. It’s that time of night. The time when the air tools its way into your brain and makes logical progression a little difficult. Anyway, it’s good to commend the Crossmans to you as artists and Christians, a combination I know from experience isn’t always the easiest.
In a book I’m reading at the moment (Take This Bread, by Sara Miles) another Christian artist is mentioned – Paul Fromberg. Miles writes, ‘Paul’s interest in religious architecture, liturgy and art was not just academic, but passionately spiritual, and it put him at odds with the church.’
The church isn’t always at odds with artists, as Christianity itself isn’t, but there are often times when the artist himself or herself is at odds with the church, or with Christianity. But trying to figure out how to be an artist in the context of Christianity is often difficult: the artist can be torn between doing works of justice and mercy and good, and doing art, which so often seems to bring nothing of ‘value’ to the world; it doesn’t alleviate suffering, it doesn’t feed the poor. How can it be valuable? Jesus never mentions art and neither does Paul.
I’m not going to go into the great debate about art and Christianity that all artists, I’m sure, have to work through. Suffice, at the moment, to say that some artists – the Crossmans, for example – seem to be more at home within the two worlds than others (me, or Paul Fromberg).
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