Bezalel Is My Homeboy

I received a comment asking how my thoughts from my post On Art & God relate to the craftsmen who were endowed in a special way for the construction of the tabernacle.

Exodus 36-39 gives us four chapters of detailed information of what Bezalel and Oholiab did in accordance with all that the Lord commanded them through Moses. While it is true that the frames of the tabernacle are covered in gold and fine tapestries drape over the rods, we must not forget that God also inspired the very dimensions of the tabernacle (Ex 25-27).

In other words, we should not isolate the artists and craftsmen for the tabernacle as though they are the only ones anointed by God’s Spirit to portray the grandeur of God.

This is the rhetoric I so often hear. “God has purposed art to portray his beauty in a special way so that it touches the soul in ways that words cannot.” Surely art does impact us in different ways than syntax and grammar do. Different does not mean preeminent, however.

The beautiful tabernacle is beautiful both in its magnificence of construction as well as its gold-covered rods. Both the construction worker and the artist are needed to scribble the glory of God on earth. By being captivated by light and color, have we failed to plumb the depths of what makes art good? In other words, I can walk around an art gallery and appreciate the art, but without an interpreter as to who the artist was or what the artist intended, I will not be able to embrace the true meaning of what sits on the canvas.

Show me a picture of red and black swirls. I can appreciate the interplay between the colors and my senses can be tickled. But when you tell me that the artist was trying to depict the violence on Calvary, the deep despair and dark night of the soul my soul is captured.

Comments 2

  1. While I don’t quite agree with your suggestion that we need an interpreter to explain to us what an artist “intended,” I’m very pleased to hear someone speaking out against the glorification of art.

    Several Christian thinkers (Calvin Seerveld and Hans Rookmaaker specifically) have suggest that the Romantic movement of the 1800s, with its emphasis on the artist as a genius, directly contributed to the idea that “art” is somehow transcendent–that it teaches things that are beyond propositional truths. The Romantic view of art is, I believe, dangerous, and seems to have been co-opted by those in the emergent church who have already rejected (to some extent at least) the idea that the Word of God speaks propositionally. Anywho, great post.

    -alan

  2. Why don’t you think there is the need for an interpreter? I am not using the word technically. What I mean is that there needs to be some kind of pre-text for when we come to a work of art – a title, the artist’s name, a grouping with art of similar persuasions, etc.

    How would you say we can understand the artist’s original intent unless there is an interpretation?

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