EChurch@Wartburg 06.18. 22 Makoto Fujimura: The Theology of Making

Prayer of St Teresa of Avila link

Lord, grant that I may always allow myself to be guided by You,
always follow Your plans,
and perfectly accomplish Your Holy Will.
Grant that in all things, great and small,
today and all the days of my life,
I may do whatever You require of me.
Help me respond to the slightest prompting of Your Grace,
so that I may be Your trustworthy instrument for Your honour.
May Your Will be done in time and in eternity by me,
in me, and through me.

Prayer on Growing Older by St Teresa of Avila link

Lord, You know better than I myself
that I am growing older and will someday be old.
Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking
I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.
Release me from craving to
straighten out everybody’s affairs.
Make me thoughtful but not moody;
helpful but not bossy.
With my vast store of wisdom,
it seems a pity not to use it all;
but You know, Lord,
that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details;
give me wings to get to the point.
Seal my lips on my aches and pains;
they are increasing, and love of rehearsing them
is becoming sweeter as the years go by.
I dare not ask for improved memory,
but for a growing humility and a lessening cock-sureness
when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
Keep me reasonably sweet, for a sour old person
is one of the crowning works of the devil.
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places
and talents in unexpected people;
and give, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

I had the pleasure of listening to Makoto Fujimura speak at a church in Chapel Hill. His art was put on display at Duke Chapel and he is often featured as a speaker there. He is a man of faith as well as a brilliant artist. Christianity Today wrote about him:  Makoto Fujimura Sings with God, Carries His Cross, and Awaits the New Creation

The first video is a short introduction to his art and then there is his presentation.

Makoto Fujimura | Art and Beauty Is All About Abundance. 3 minutes

Benediction by St Teresa of Avila link

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.


EChurch@Wartburg 06.18. 22 Makoto Fujimura: The Theology of Making — 26 Comments

  1. Thanks, Dee. Excellent.

    We are made in the image of God, our Creator God Who created the universe and all things.

    In His image, we, too, have the opportunity to be makers, for the glory of God.


  2. There’s a short book by Dorothy L. Sayers, titled The Mind of the Maker.

    I’m guessing that some of you folks would find it both interesting and enjoyable.

    One thing I do find a bit odd is the way Fujimura has become a “celebrity artist” within certain segments of US Christianity. There are SO many other artists in this country who are Christian – to my mind, there should be a multiplicity of voices on these topics. But Fujimura is the media go-to at the moment.

    (* Note: back in the 90s I was involved in CIVA – Christians in the Visual Arts. You could see so much new work by all kinds of artists, working in all sorts of ways, at their annual conferences. Those folks are still around, although I feel as if they have never gotten beyond their original statement of purpose, from several decades ago. They reiterate it over and over, as opposed to striking out into new territory. I like a great many of the people I met through CIVA, but the organization itself has never taken off in the way its founders would have liked…. IMO, Fujimura is a bit over-represented, so to speak. And I hope that others will be able to get seats at the table. Lord knows, many are deserving.)

    Just my .02-worth, an opinion among many opinions…

  3. All that said, I’m glad to see an artist being interviewed, as opposed to Francis Schaeffer’s views on art being the be-all and end-all for many. He loved art, but understanding what it’s like to work in the arts (any/all of them) – well, therein lies the rub (one of them, anyway). Schaeffer’s enthusiasm was contagious, that I can say for certain. But there was a lack of depth and understanding there as well. (A lot of L’Abri old-timers will understand what I’m trying to say here.)

  4. numo,
    I’m one of those Christians who can still root for art, for art’s sake and for its value in purely human terms.
    And not necessarily have it tied to Christian theology.
    Can I be honest here?
    I’d rather look at Starry Night and Cottages at Cordeville than Fujimura’s works.

  5. Ava Aaronson,

    Now I think I know
    What you tried to say to me
    And how you suffered for your sanity
    And how you tried to set them free

    They would not listen, they’re not listening still
    Perhaps they never will

    — Don McLean 1972 —

  6. Muff Potter,

    Actually, you’re in a fairly large group of folks (artists and folks who love art) on this.

    I think I’d better refrain from comment, but you can read between the lines.

    I am not terribly concerned about a theology of art – most art, from pretty much all cultures, is closely tied to religions and spiritual practices of one sort of another. The history of religion(s) is an integral part of art history, as well as being a continuing thread in art the world over.

    People generally put their all into art that reflects what they believe in, but not necessarily in an overtly religious or doctrinaire way.

    I think Hans Rookmaaker (L’Abri’s unofficial consultant on art history) was VERY wrong in many ways about 20th c. art, especially abstract art. He thought it reflected a kind of nihilism. He was old enough to have lived through both world wars, and I don’t doubt that many European artists’ post-WWII is a direct reflection of the unbelievable destruction and trauma of the two world wars. As such, it can be (loosely) paralleled by both Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Lamentations. There really ARE times of despair, and expressing that in art doe not equal nihilism, imo.

    How can anyone look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the Holocaust, and NOT despair?

  7. I’ll just say that Fujimura made a big splash about 10 years ago at events where he painted to live musical accompaniment. The people who played were, imo, WAY beyond him in terms of both technical and expressive mastery, yet he wrote a big blog post about how he basically “discovered” one of them at a gallery opening. He made this big case for her being completely unappreciated (you know, the chatter at openings is unending anyway) and kind of portrayed himself as her patron

    Well, NO. Just NO. I am familiar with her work (though not her more recent stuff) and she was WAY more established and visible than Fujimura was at that time.

    Besides, these “live painting” gifs were… Like Happenings from the 60s. They drew Xtians, too, in the main.

    Enough said.

  8. Another P.S. – I have a BFA in studio art, and an MA in art history, though it’s been a long time since I’ve worn either hat.

    My real love is music, and I’m an amateur musician.

    I could say a lot about the capital-letterish Art World, but will refrain!

    I am less concerned about theology than aesthetics – which is how art and artists actually function.

    What I can say is that Japanese art (mainly ink paintings that reflect different aspects of Zen Buddhism) were my 1st major influence. Much as I love much Western art, it’s never been the only art i care about, and it probably isn’t the most important to me, either.

    People concerned with theologies of art generally exclude non-Xtians, but there’s a very real, deep need for many evangelicals to learn about visual art (well, all of the arts). So many are missing out on SO much. And if couching things in religious terms helps bridge that gap, then it’s a good thing (generally speaking).

    This is especially true for folks who’ve been home-schooled by people who don’t see any value in “the World” – in other words, the entirety of arts and culture.

    You know the book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, yes? If not, pick up a copy. Mark Noll, who wrote it, is a historian from an evangelical background. There aren’t many others like him, unfortunately.

  9. I skimmed the CT article.

    While I’m thinking there’s value in Fujimura’s books – which I have not read – the opening paragraphs of the article are *so*…. hagographic, I guess

    It bugs the living daylights out of me to see one person get all this adulation – yeah, he has his orgs, but all over the country, artists whose beliefs are like his have been teaching art since long before he was alive

    I would LOVE to see articles about art in mags like CT that didn’t reference artists who fit their “theologically correct” mode.

    Sorry folks -this piece made me angry. I know artists who are both Xtians and, frankly, better than this guy.

    Celebrity pastors and now, celebrity artists on the evangelical circuit.

    I’ll take Sister Wendy Beckett’s books ANY day over this stuff. (Those who watched PBS during the 90s will no doubt recall her ) And she never, ever felt compelled to produce theological reasons for her love of visual art or what she said in camera. Her religion certainly was an integral part of her views, but being Catholic, she could call on the Xtian humanism of the Renaissance and later.

    Funnily enough, she loved abstract art, not just figurative (what most folks might call “,realism,” but it means more than that).

  10. Dee and all – my apologies for ranting, but this particular topic is something that’s part of my life – bedrock,really

    Interesting how all human beings,of all the faiths there are, have been creating gorgeous works of art since well before monotheism existed. If humans are made in God’s image, that = ALL humans, not just a segment who are “doctrinally correct ”


  11. P.P.S.

    Many of the evangelicals who are visual artists and art historians run in fairly small circles. I checked some stuff on Wiki, and so many familiar names popped up.

    As in the rest of society, the evangelicals in the art world are overwhelmingly male. Women artists struggle for parity there, as in society as a whole. And BIPOC artists in evangelical circles are conspicuously absent.

    OK, enough outta me for one day!

  12. The main reason I featured Makoto is that he was impressed with his knowledge of the faith and how he integrates it with his art. Duke Chapel has displayed his works and I have had the experience of listening to him in person and viewing his art. His presentation personally touched me. I am trying very hard to present some topics in the EChurch that might not be the usual. It is fine if you don’t like his art. However, many experts might disagree with you on the value of his form of art.

    Now, let’s get back to the basics. This was meant as a way to worship God and to do so using art. How does art lead you to the Creator? Or how does it not affect you at all?

  13. numo: If humans are made in God’s image, that = ALL humans, not just a segment who are “doctrinally correct ”

    All humans are made in the image of God. However, doctrine affects if that image of God shines or destroys. Hitler was created in God’s image. However,that image was buried and destroyed by his actions.

  14. dee: How does art lead you to the Creator? Or how does it not affect you at all?

    I think it’s a purely subjective thing as to what art (if any) leads one to the centrality of the Almighty. For me it’s William Blake’s illustrations of the Book of Job.
    You needn’t make any apologies as to why you chose Fujimura’s works, they reached in, and moved you as an individual unlike any other.
    What delivers the goods to one person may not do likewise to another.
    Vive la difference!

  15. dee: All humans are made in the image of God. However, doctrine affects if that image of God shines or destroys. Hitler wascreated in God’s image. However,that image was buried and destroyed by his actions.

    Dee, with art – all of the arts – it’s not the same thing at all.

    I’m sorry for venting. I’d encourage you to look into Sr. Wendy Beckett’s books and the DVDs of her BBC series (multiple), if you can find them.

    Sorry, but i know SO many artists who have integrated their faith with their art for about 40 years now. Trust me, M. Fujimura deserves to be listened to, but the evangelical media have turned him into their token art celebrity.

    I do NOT like that. Not one bit. He’s one of MANY who deservee to get some attention.

  16. I actually haven’t commented on his work, though i find it interesting that his pieces are abstract. That’s b/c abstraction was abhorred by Schaeffer and others associated with L’Abri, who set the tone for *our* generation.

    It was a matter of taste, although one of their books was titled Modern Art and the Death of a Culture (Hans Rookmaaker).

    I’m glad his pieces are accepted now, but the fanboyish intro to that CT piece is just maddening to me personally. I’m sure the writer’s intrent is good, but it looks as if he hasn’t connected much with anyone or anything outside of Fujimura’s orbit. That’s to his detriment. You just cannot learn all there is to learn under one person’s tutelage, no matter how eloquent they are.

    That’s why arts faculties have more than 1 person on staff.

    And again, it’s the celebrity thing that upsets me, along with how he wrotevabout musician Susie Ibarra years back.

    This is the field i studied. I am obviously anything but neutral.

  17. Also… the internet is the great leveler here. None of the arts orgs i was involved with a few decades back had that at their disposal.

    Things have changed, almost at the speed of light.

    And not all of the arts folks who happen to be Xtian revere Fujimura, no matter the style they work in. Am sure there’s jealousy involved, but it’s not just that.

    I think he might be best at communicating with an evangelical + formerly evangelical audience. In a broader look at artists who are Xtian, in the US al9ne, he’s just 9ne of many, you know? But b/c he isn’t painting saints, certain Protestants are probably more open to his work than they are to pieces by Catholic or E. Orthodox artists, both sacred and secular.

  18. Creativity is one of the ways in which the image of God shines through all human beings most clearly.

    As an arts person, it’s where i connect most, also with the natural world and amateur astronomy.

    But everyone is different.

  19. If being unresponsive to paintings of saints sounds ridiculous, i can tell you that I’ve seen and heard a Rusdian Orthodox speaker get verbally attacked – with catcalls and shouting – in the middle of a talk. His attackers were youbg, supposedly Xtian guys who were art students.

    How the lecturer kept his cool, I’ll never know.

    And truly, there are folks out there who have intense distaste for, of all things, depictions of the Madonna and Child. Adding other saints = it gets much, much worse. They cannot see the beauty – nor their common heritage as Xtians – b/c of their prejudices.

    It’s kinda infuriating and heartbreaking, all at the same time.

    At the risk of being annoying, Sr. Wendy Beckett was much loved by both Catholics and Protestants. Like the best in her field, she was ecumenical. We need more folks like her, though she was unique.

  20. Dee, if you happen to see this, please check your personal email. It’s an apology, but there’s stuff in it that goes into the general topic of Xtians in the arts and some of the things I’ve personally experienced as well as why evangelicals probably *need* theologies of creating, more perhaps than many other Xtians.

  21. I figured as much!

    Btw, from what i can see (on my tablet) of his most recent work – i like it a lot. I think there’s a qualitative difference from what hee was doing in the mid-00s and am really glad to see it. His work is *very* E. Asian (and very, very Japanese) and i think there’s resistance to that in the US generally.

    So please, his work is one thing, the whole issue of a theology of art is quite another.

    I’m probably reacting against someone with whom i will end up agreeing, in fact.

    Just goes to show how fallible i am, as are we all.

    My specific beef was with a blog + blog post of his that happened a lojg time ago. Neither the blog nor the post exists anymore.