In Image and Spirit, author and artist Karen Stone recounts comments she overheard in a modern art museum one November day:
"I don't get it."
"My 3-year-old niece could do that."
"Is this a joke?"
Many readers can probably relate. Bewilderment and scorn in the face of art—the chaos splashed onto canvas by Jackson Pollock and his imitators, the single glass of water balanced on a high shelf in a Brooklyn gallery, alongside a placard reading "This is a tree"—is as much an American institution as the artworks themselves. Most of us have taken a required art history class or two, but, really, who can recall anything except the snickers whenever a nude appeared on the slide projector screen?
Confronting and (gulp) understanding visual art seems even more intimidating to most Christians, says Stone, an instructor at the University of Texas at Arlington. The long-standing Protestant tradition that favors practical function (or the lewd sentimentality of the occasional honey-blonde Jesus painting) over aesthetic form means that many believers dismiss the importance of art in general and its application to their spiritual journeys in particular.