In last week’s post, I introduced The Fabric of Faithfulness (Garber). This book traces three habits that help connect what we believe with how we live, in college and in our careers after graduation. These three include a comprehensive worldview, community and character. I love hearing stories of people living consistently, adhering to their beliefs with integrity and letting them shape how they relate to people, how they philosophize, how they make art. Fujimura is a Japanese contemporary painter living in New York. He’s also a teacher, having lectured at Yale and Princeton and founded the International Arts Movement, which promotes dialogue between artists about faith, culture and humanity.
His faith and the work of the gospel in his life pervades his art. My favorite of his series works is Gold. He uses gold leaf and powder faithfully in the Japanese tradition. In this series, Fujimura encounters beauty through the golden fire, portraying sanctification, destruction and the wrestling within our own souls to accept grace and to let ourselves be shaped by God.
In a letter to young artists, Fujimura rebukes the legalist’s approach to art and religion. We either strive to earn certain behaviors and results or instead accept grace that comes to us now and in the future through faith in Christ. He writes:
Strict moralism has never produced great art. Like Mary’s expensive oil, our expression flows out as a response to grace in our lives. Even if you are not cognizant of a grace reality, you can still create in the possibility of future grace. That takes faith to do, but if you can do that, you will be joining so many artists of the past who wrestled deeply with faith, doubt, poverty, rejection, longing and yet chose to create. Know that the author of creativity longs for you to barge in, break open the gift you have been saving; he will not only receive you, he can bring you purpose behind the battle, and rebuke those who reject you […]
So endeavor to create generatively. Don’t be a critic when you create. You can look at your work later and discern what is good. Your growth as an artist is not in being able to impress others, or even God.
Check out more of his work here.