Fragments of Light

Engaging Beauty, Part 2

The beauty of the world is almost the only way by which we can allow God to penetrate us.
— Simone Weil, Waiting on God, quoted in: Visual Faith: Art,Theology, & Worship in Dialogue, by William A. Dyrness

As he reflects on the interaction of art and culture, in his book, Visual Faith: Art, Theology, & Worship in Dialogue, William Dyrness considers how works of art engender the spiritual: “Experiencing a work of visual art is meant to focus our attention on one place for one moment of time, in a sense allowing us to see all of life in that one moment. Like the biblical notion of Sabbath (which means at its root to ‘stop’) art stops us in our tracks and forces us to pay attention to life in a way that we have not previously done. The painting that arrests our gaze in the gallery insists that we ignore all the needs and duties of everyday life and look at life, as it were, from a distance. Unlike music, which plunges us into time and holds us there until it brings its harmonic world to resolution, visual art stops time. In such experience art provides an important image of transcendence . . . for Christians it is a transcendence that points us, indeed, can help connect us, to the personal ground and meaning that is God.”
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“(T)he experience of art also provides an image or echo of redemption as well. The artist always starts with something in the world—objects, colors. shapes—and collects and draws out the ‘sense’ that the Creator has placed in these things, and shapes this into an image of meaning. This process implies that the world need not he left it is; it is ‘redeemable.’ . . . God, in other words, has created the world susceptible to transformation. And as he works in it his gracious purposes that come to focus in Jesus Christ, so we — Christians or not— may work in the direction of these purposes. God by the Spirit indwells both the time of the musician and the space of the artist.”

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