The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Just Incredible
Please allow me to digress a tiny bit from my usual musings and discuss the all to common use of the word incredible.

"Incredible" means/used to mean "untrue", as in "the slippery witness was utterly incredible in their testimony." Yet all too often the word is used to mean more or less the opposite: "this food tastes incredible." I suppose the idea is that such a something is too good to be true.

Every time I hear the word used this way it is like fingernails on the blackboard. The epitome of this lexical abuse is phrase penned/spoken by Christians again and again: "God is so incredible." Ouch! Jesus is "the way, the truth, the life" and is so "incredible" is doing so.

Does anybody else out there experience pain when they hear/read this?

I know that language evolves over time but this seems to be a subtle undermining of God's absolutely credible character. Will you join me in stopping the abuse?

Monday, April 21, 2008
The Origin of Spin?

Until Duchamp, criticism was aesthetically based. The critic talked about a painting's subject, the way the artist handled color, drawing, composition and the like. With Readymades, the object's appearance and beauty were no longer the issue -- indeed, they were irrelevant. What mattered was the idea behind the work -- the point the artist was trying to make. So art criticism moved from the realm of visual experience to that of philosophy. The writer no longer had to base his critical observations on a close scrutiny of the work of art. He could simply riff.

--from article on the crisis of writing on art from Wall Street Journal

Friday, April 18, 2008
More on Cranach
(or More on Ancient Hip)

“It attracts crossover buyers, who are drawn by the artist’s sharp-edged, pared-down, weird modern aesthetic.”

--comments on the portrait of Princess Sybille of Cleve by Cranach which recently was auctioned for over 7 million dollars


Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Survey Says...

Report: "Unchurched prefer cathedrals to contemporary church designs"

So much for "missional", "authentic" and "hip".

(HT: Russ Reeves)

Friday, April 11, 2008
Should Art Take a Stand?
Before there was Thomas Kinkade there was the German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach. There is a show of his stuff at the Royal Academy in London that has been getting some press.

Cranach had close ties to Martin Luther and is often heralded as an artist who embodied Reformation principles in his art. But a closer look at his art shows that he was more of an astute businessman that theologically driven/inspired artist. He employed a large workshop which produced hundreds of his popular portraits of Luther and other Reformational luminaries. But also continued to create devotional images of Mary and Saints for Roman Catholic clientele.

As one reviewer of the London exhibit observes:

When Luther took the dramatic and scandalous step of marrying a former nun in 1525, the timid Melancthon stayed away, but Cranach was Luther's best man. He sold mass-produced sets of paired wedding portraits of the couple, a defiant proclamation of the reformer's evangelical freedom from monkish vows. Painter and preacher were godfathers to each other's children, and in 1527 Cranach painted tender portraits of Luther's aged father and mother. The insight into character and obvious affection of these great pictures were another testimony to the painter's love for Luther and his family.

And yet, during these same years, Cranach's workshop was also turning out scores of Catholic pictures for Catholic patrons, including Luther's bête noire, Cardinal Albrecht, the archbishop of Mainz. These included altarpieces for Albrecht's cathedral, devotional panels of Christ as the Man of Sorrows (an image closely associated with the doctrine of transubstantiation), images of favourite Catholic saints, or of Mary assumed into heaven. Cranach and his assistants painted Cardinal Albrecht himself as Saint Jerome in his study (in a composition borrowed from a famous print by Dürer), and as witness to the miraculous Mass of Saint Gregory, a subject associated not only with transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the mass, but also with the release of souls from purgatory, and so absolute anathema to Luther. Characteristically, however, Cranach never drew Albrecht from the life, and probably never met him: instead, he copied Albrecht's features from Dürer's 1519 portrait.

How can we account for this duality? Was it the almighty Mark?

Or maybe it was because Cranach followed Luther in a Two Kingdom approach to artmaking?!!!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Public Sculpture Turns the Church on its Head
Read about the controversy in Vancouver, BC here.

The title of the work by artist Dennis Oppenheim is "Device to Root Out Evil". Is this a light flight of whimsy, or sly put-down of Christendom? Hard to say.

I wonder what they are thinking about this at nearby Regent College...

Monday, April 07, 2008
When in Seattle, do...
Sorry for the lack of posts last week.

Part of my busy week included a trip up to the Seattle Art Museum to see Roman Art from Louvre exhibit and the small display of three Gates of Paradise panels by Ghiberti from the Baptistry in Florence. Both shows were wonderful. The Louvre show was truly exceptional - at least here on the West Coast of North America. Dozens of life-size sculptures and friezes, plus pottery, glass and silver from the period. Much better than I expected.

See the Ghiberti panels in person (since I have never been to Florence) was also worthwhile. Its always nice to actually encounter something that is so prominantly featured in my art history classes.

I am glad my son could see this as well!