The second day of the CIVA conference brought questions- important questions- for any artist who examines cultural assumptions and calls them ‘lies’. An artist who believes that a personality underlying the universe, both re-creating and re-newing it, is both powerful and loving cannot also understand the human perspective to be the last word on what is true. Such an artist must participate in the imagination of God, which is unlimited, rather than the imagination of humans, which is limited and often false.
Kevin Hamilton introduced the question, ‘Does the presence of beauty dull our sense of injustice?’
Lara showed a video featuring her mother in a landscape with a river of life as an overlay. Her mother has dementia, but appears as happy and exploratory as a four-year-old child. Among many wise statements that Lara shared was the advice that “There is no front line apart from where you are.” Her explanation for this is that Christians proclaim Christ to be in the center of all things, yet Jesus is not inclined to put himself in the center at all. He chooses, instead, to be wherever we are. If we are concerned about justice, then we don’t need to move or be anyone other than who we are in order to be on the front lines of pursuing justice, because Jesus is right there with us in our place and time, pursuing justice.
Riva spoke very directly of beauty. She makes art about physical disability and so, focuses on cultural messages of beauty and their ability to tell lies about what is valuable. For her, there are two kinds of beauty. Simple beauty is the stuff of advertising. It is a static experience- we are not changed by the beauty over time. Informed beauty is like falling in love; while the beloved might not have been terribly attractive at first, through knowledge and familiarity, the beloved becomes beautiful and precious- capable of changing the lover in mind and soul.
Because my thoughts often turn to justice, and my art often reflects this, the question of beauty as a red herring, leading the viewer away from any sense of injustice depicted, is important to consider.