State of the Arts

Today’s post is a review of Gene Veith’s book, State of the Arts: From Bezalel to Mapplethorpe. 🙂

State of the Arts Review

I am not someone with skills as a visual artist. I am more the type to revere museums from a long running respect for long past school field trips. So while I know I like beautiful things, I am not necessarily articulate about why or even how I understand beauty. Now, however, State of the Arts has given me a real education in thoughts and concepts behind and about art from a Christian point of view.

This book attempts to discuss a wide array of artistic approaches. Though sometimes there are cultural assumptions that may no longer be quite so assumed (such as kitsch, do folks still speak in those terms?), this was an eye opener for me. I only wish the pictures could have been in color so I could better learn visually as well as mentally. 

The concept that “we cannot escape the arts” because “they permeate our lives” has been a game-changer in a very positive sense! In fact, I feel like my understanding of my home and how I’m bringing up my kids is now on a better footing!

Great, great stuff on Bezalel and Scripture. Much of it from his earlier book, The Gift of Art, which I read ages ago. State of the Arts expands on that book with very interesting overviews of artistic thought—artistic reasoning even more than philosophy, a distinction which made this book much more easy to understand. The approach reminds me of his more recent book, Post-Christian, because issues are addressed while seeing Christian points on both sides of the spectrum. Very helpful! 

Now, there is some dishing on controversial works, so you’d need to have a few explicit talks with your middle schoolers before just handing them this book. Still, this is another great book from Dr. Veith. It was published in 1991, but, since it only claims to go through Mapplethorpe, it is not as dated as it could be. Culture may be rushing quickly along its currents, but it seems to me that a vast majority of the insights remain evident and valid.


Other Books

I’m a big fan of anything Veith, so here’s a link to his Cranach blog and here’s a link to all the online presentations & articles of his I’ve found. (I should probably update it. Let me know if you see I’ve missed something.)

Let’s see if I can list his books (in no particular order):


Plus Painters of Faith: The Spiritual Landscape in Nineteenth Century Americasold by Ad Crucem. At least, that ought to be most of them. 😀

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