Monday, April 25, 2011

Brand and Chaplin on Kitsch

“Milan Kundera memorably describes kitsch as art in which there is an absolute denial of s___.1 Kitsch offers a cosy, comfortable world, a world that is chirpy and cheerful and emotionally cheap. Kitsch trivialises human experience, never enlarges it. It deals in cliché, never new ways of saying something. It is art that is immature, often deliberately babyish. It is high on nostalgia and glitter and low on realism.

“The problem with talking about kitsch is that it risks criticising objects which can mean very much to people. The attachment is often based not on aesthetic qualities of the object but the associations and memories it evokes: a gift from a child, a souvenir of a happy holiday. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that. Any dogmatic condemnation of such items is merely snobbery. In any case, today’s kitsch may well be tomorrow’s antiques!

“However, if Christian artists produce art which is shallow, sentimental and low on realism, they not only produce bad art, they also misinterpret the full Christian experience of living in a broken, albeit redeemed, world – an experience which may contain more lows than highs.”

Hilary Brand and Adrienne Chaplin, Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts, 107.

1. Kundera, Milan, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Friday, April 22, 2011

Poems for Friday

"Behold the Man!"

Shall Christ hang on the Cross, and we not look?
Heaven, earth, and hell stood gazing at the first,
While Christ for long-cursed man was counted cursed;
Christ, God and Man, Whom God the Father strook
And shamed and sifted and one while forsook:--
Cry shame upon our bodies we have nursed
In sweets, our souls in pride, our spirits immersed
In wilfulness, our steps run all acrook.
Cry shame upon us! for He bore our shame
In agony, and we look on at ease
With neither hearts on flame nor cheeks on flame:
What hast thou, what have I, to do with peace?
Not to send peace but send a sword He came,
And fire and fasts and tearful night-watches.

The Descent from the Cross

Is this the Face that thrills with awe
Seraphs who veil their face above?
Is this the Face without a flaw,
The Face that is the Face of Love?
Yea, this defaced, a lifeless clod,
Hath all creation's love sufficed,
Hath satisfied the love of God,
This Face the Face of Jesus Christ.

- Christina Rossetti

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Death Certificate

Almost every day I meet men and women well advanced in years who walk to my desk holding the little blue paper. Perhaps it is me, but I seem to see white knuckles, fingers pressing the little blue scrap, not to let it go. That little blue scrap is a metaphor, the only scrap they have left of the one whose name is written on it. In this case it says, Frieda Fern Wooden, maiden name Mabry. Oh, when it was Mabry! How beautiful she was! She would be 77 this August, that is, before box 33 came. Box 33 is heavy with pain. In this case it's "Colon Cancer," for "years." Maybe this is why I see his face is calm, at peace for once. God knows the last four years have been tulmultuous. Surely the skeptics were wrong, death is very painful. The pain of death is in the waiting for it. Grimly the reaper stood immobile, impassive for years, four to be specific. But now all that remains is the soreness from that pain, the jagged reminders of lost joys in the form of tea cups and Christmas ornaments and blue scraps of paper. Perhaps that's why he told me not to bother making a copy?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1665 Kenwood House, Hamptead, London

"As a child I used often to look at Rembrandt's self-portrait in London's Kenwood House, a picture which gave peculiar comfort in the way it seamlessly joins greatness and frailty. It echoes everyone's vocation to glory, with everyone's painful self-knowledge." David Thistlethwaite, The Art of God and the Religions of Art, 7.

Later, "The self-portrait in which you can see yourself - and humanity's condition: greatness almost swallowed up by self-harm; and self-reproach almost yielded to forgiveness." Thistlethwaite, Plate 2