FAQs: For the Beauty of the Church

As this book moves out into the public, I will discover things that I wish I would have done differently. This entry is a chance to redress some of those concerns. I'll start with something that would have been quite easy to include in the book, but which very regrettably escaped my mind.

But quick note: I've added to my links page a video. In it I talk briefly about the church's relationship to the city's art community.

Now then, the first FAQ.

1. Who are the artists whose work accompanies each chapter?

Here they are, in the order in which they appear in the book. If you click on their name, you'll be taken to their personal website.


I chose Jim's annunciation piece because it nicely captured the feel of my introductory chapter. I've known Jim for a while, enjoying both his Fourth of July parties and his art. I've especially loved the vibrant, pungent quality of his subject matter. That quality became something the congregation at Hope Chapel tasted one season of Easter and still to this day. We had commissioned Jim to create a wall banner for the back of the sanctuary. With a generous zeal, Jim made a massively large banner depicting the resurrected Christ hovering over the landscape of Jim's childhood neighborhood. The irradiating Christ made (and indeed makes) all things new: barbecue grills, stars, guitars, trees, swing sets, wine, etc. The work is at one and the same time terrifying and playful. Jim attends Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Elgin, TX.

Katherine was an invaluable ally when I first arrived at Hope Chapel. In the summer of 1996 I gathered artists into a room for my first time. I remember Katherine sitting in the right corner of the room. She introduced herself as a printmaker and curator. Without her, quite honestly, I would not have known a thing about the successful organization of a visual art exhibit. She's a master printer who also creates gorgeous prints. She's a delightful, elegant woman, excellently connected to the art scene in Austin, and she helps lead CIVA's printmaking efforts. Katherine attends Hope Chapel.

Andy, aka "Ebbesen," is a latter-day Leonardo da Vinci. It would be cute of me to say this if I were exaggerating. But I am not. He's one of those people who can work in any media: metal, stone, wood, clay, wax, glass, fiber, canvas, electrical, photographic, and so on (and I mean the "so on" literally). He's like a one-man Mister Magorium, with an astonishing ability to create work that is as magical as it is thought-provoking. The photograph at left captures much better than the B&W version in the book the warmth of the woods which he worked into this "chorus." Andy attends Christ Church Anglican in Austin.

Baker's work is sly and you could easily be deceived if you walked by it too quickly. You'd think it was only cartoons. While it resembles the cartoon craft, it operates in the tradition of satire. But Baker's satire lacks the petty, mean-spirited and ultimately selfish quality that marks so much that goes by satire these days. Baker's work is--dare I say it?--sincere. And that's what makes his work truly powerful. I had a chance last summer to hang out with him and his Orthodox artist friends, and I am so grateful for our friendship within the shared space of a Great Tradition Christian faith. Baker attends St. John the Forerunner Orthodox Church in Austin.

I met Laura in the summer of 1991. I've known her the longest of any artist in Austin. I so earnestly wanted her to succeed as an artist that I joined a few others in supporting her financially through her MFA. At the end of her program Hope Chapel hosted a solo exhibit of her work. One of the things I loved most about her work, especially in the context of Hope, was how it re-taught us how to see. Her subject matter included Dalits and refugees, the least of these, to use Jesus' language. These were the ones, left to our own devices, that we might not "see." Her abstract and conceptual style forced our congregation to slow down and look, and look again, and look yet again. This kind of careful looking became not simply an artistic experience, it became a spiritual discipline, and for that service to the church I am deeply grateful. She worships at St. Mark's Episcopal in Austin.

Samantha's work tends to make me simultaneously very, very melancholy and very, very happy. She creates these poignant figures that capture so much in such little space. I met Samantha while she was a college student at UT Austin. Her German background endeared her to me, since I'd studied in an Austrian school as a kid. She frequently humored my crude attempts at carrying a conversation in the mother tongue of Luther and Goethe. But her work is some of my all-time favorite. Additionally, she did this sketch-an-artpiece-at-least-once-a-day for, well, was it thirty days or fifty days or one hundred days? I can't remember. All I remember is that it inspired me to launch my own thirty-day writing challenge. Samantha attends All Angels Episcopal Church in NYC.

ANITA HORTONI met Anita at a Trinity Arts Conference in Dallas. Katherine Brimberry was there with me and I remember she pulled me aside to tell me that we should bring Anita down to be a guest artist for one of our arts festivals. So we did. Ever since, we have remained fast friends. In August of 2003 she was diagnosed with advanced osteoporosis. Out of that experience of intense pain she created work that explored, with bone-like shapes and material, the fragility that lies beneath the surface. Some of this artwork is positively bone un-nerving. Compounding the disease she suffered family tragedy, and it was only by the grace of God, mediated through the steady, gentle love of friends, that she emerged not bitter but brave to name the diseases that had afflicted her. Anita attends Restoration Anglican Church in Addison, TX.


In 1999 I wrote an essay for Regeneration Quarterly. Its title was "Are Bananas Christian?" In it I argued, perhaps simplistically, that if we cannot reasonably call a banana "Christian" but rather only a good banana or a bad banana according to its kind, then we cannot reasonably, easily, lazily, naively, or hastily call a work of art "Christian." We can only call it good or bad according to its kind (medium) and to its purpose (intention, subject, context, reception). A few years ago Shaun made me supremely happy by designing a poster. In it he had placed a large and garishly colored banana. Along the curved line of the peel Shaun included the text: "This is not another Christian banana." That is the kind of witty, sharp-eyed design that Shaun has been producing over the years. He's a fabulously talented young designer, whom I'm very pleased to know. Shaun attends Austin Stone Church in Austin.

The advantage of living with a real artist is that you get to see what a real artist really looks like. And mostly, it looks like a really difficult life. It's one thing to observe the artist as a "final product." When filmmaker Scott Derrickson appears in photographs surrounded by famous, smart people like Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson for the premier of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, he appears as a "final product." And meanwhile, out in the land of fledgling filmmakers, the struggle against jealousy and insecurity only intensifies when (false) comparisons are made with Scott "the final product" filmmaker. But then Scott disappears for years from the public eye. He vanishes off the pages of Entertainment Weekly and Variety.com. He then turns into an artist "in process" and my guess is that it's often anything but glamorous. My point is this. I get to see the hundreds of little decisions Phaedra makes day after day to choose her artwork. Every time she chooses art, she chooses against every allure to not make art. She doesn't always choose her art, of course. Some days she gives herself fully to allure of avoidance. But more often than not these days she chooses to do something instead of nothing, and that makes me very proud of her. Phaedra attends All Saints Anglican in Durham, NC.


If John Michael Talbot had been born half a generation later and had been a visual artist instead of a musician, with enough funk to dress in hoodies instead of monk cowls, well, he could have been Jeff Guy. I first met him at last year's Laity Lodge retreat for ministers to artists. Jeff had that unsettling quiet manner about him that could make you fidgety if you didn't like silence for too long. But he's also mischievous. And when he laughs, it makes you love him even more. If you listen carefully, Jeff is very specific in how he answers the question, "What do you do?" He'll say, I work in the craft of painting. I love how he's resurrecting an old noun and re-introducing it into the world of fine art. I am so pleased that his work accompanies the final chapter. The art excellently and allusively captures my "hope and prayer" for the church. Jeff attends Trinity Anglican Church in Atlanta, GA.


Rosie Perera said…
Thanks for posting those! I had been wishing Baker had included color plates for the art. It's wonderful to see them here in all their glory. The B&W versions were suboptimal.
I agree. If we get to a second printing, I will plead kindly for color plates. I guess all we need to do now is get Rick Warren, John Piper, NT Wright, Tim Keller, Stanley Hauerwas and Donald Miller, and yes, of course, Steven Spielberg, to recommend the book to their respective constituencies and we'll get our second printing.
sam said…
Thanks so much for writing such words David. I sort of live in a tension between melancholy and joy, so it's interesting to hear that it reads through in my work.

I've started reading the book and am really enjoying it.


p.s. It was 100 days. :)
Samantha: 100 is the magical number. Very nice--and impressive.
Dear David,
I'm so honored to be a part of your journey, not only through "Beauty" but all along the way since we first met. Thank you for the gift of your words. Blessings to you always.
Thanks, Anita, and the pleasure and privilege is mine.
scott said…
has anyone ever drafted discussion questions to go with the chapters? if so, is it possible to get a copy? my wife is using your book with an arts ministry team at our church.
scott anderson
Scott, that possibility has been talked about since the book was conceived. Unfortunately it has been all talk and no work ever since. It's something I'd like to tackle, if I get an open moment. I could begin a series of blog entries that propose questions to correspond to each chapter. Thanks for the prompt.

Are you in Vancouver? Or is this another Scott? What church is your wife a part of?


scott said…
David, thanks for your incredibly quick response. yes, this is the scott anderson that was at Capernwray with Stephanie, at Regent with you, and at Arrow with Cliff. We have relocated to Saskatchewan (central canada) where i am the pastor of spiritual formation at a church in saskatoon (ebenezer baptist - a vibrant church with an old school name). we've been here for a little over a year now. my wife is a gift visual artist (janetspaintedlife.blogspot.com), and is pulling together the diverse and scattered artists in our church to journey together, and to bring their artistic gifts into the life of the church. a slow, but needed endeavour.
grace and peace,
Scott: most excellent. Thanks for the update. Very exciting to hear. I'll check out your wife's website. Also, I'm publishing an article in Christianity Today in April that'll explore the role of the visual arts in worship. It'll probably include images from banners made by Erica Grimm-Vance that hang in First Baptist Edmonton, and that my friend is closer to your neck of the woods than mine. :)

Blessings to you.

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