This chapter discusses how the rise of interest in the materiality of religions that has taken place in the last twenty years or so has tended to focus on popular media, everyday life, and the material practices involving things, images, and devotional concerns of people facing the common problems of life. It is important to recognize that lived religion is not a degenerate form of refined religion, a corruption of theology, or the beliefs of simple people, but rather a range of practices and ideas that exhibit a discrete aesthetic that depends on objects. The disinterestedness that is vital for the evaluation of fine art does not capture the experiences of lived religion. This chapter explores the visuality of everyday religion.
John W. de Gruchy
This article examines visual art and its relationship with morality and justice. It first considers justice-related ethical issues raised by the relationship between art and morality, including censorship, plagiarism, and property rights. It then discusses the link between aesthetics and ethics, or beauty and morality, and situates art within particular historical contexts and cultures. It also analyzes the views of four post-Enlightenment philosophers toward aesthetics: Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Søren Kierkegaard. Furthermore, it comments on the extent to which bias of race, gender and class can influence the work of artists. The article also looks at the connections between art, beauty, morality, and social justice and the moral power of art to change society for the better. Finally, it describes the role of the arts in the struggle against apartheid and liberation.
Albert C. Labriola
In line with its Greek etymology, ‘iconography’ refers to all forms of visual images, including any material means of artistic representation. Religious iconography typically refers to visual images of personages, events, and objects in the Bible. As such, religious iconography is a means of investigating how the Bible was received and interpreted in various eras. Included in religious iconography are illustrated Bibles, manuscript illuminations, books of hours, missals, sacramentaries, ectionaries, paintings, sculptures, murals, frescos, mosaics, metalwork, stained glass, and the like. This article surveys religious iconography by emphasizing medieval illuminations from the 10th through the 16th centuries, the seedbed of religious imagery. Religious iconography in the Middle Ages, moreover, profoundly affected art in the Renaissance and afterwards. The article focuses on selected but representative personages, events, and objects from the Old and New Testaments.
Deborah J. Haynes
What does creativity mean in the study of the arts and religious traditions? In discussing this question, the chapter begins with general definitions of creativity and the creative process, then examines in more detail how creativity intersects the arenas of visual art and religion. Using an interpretive model based on categories of creator, object, viewer, and context, examples are drawn from diverse cultures. Issues of diversity and cultural differences in the interpretation of creativity within and outside of religious traditions, as well as the relationship of creative artistic work to contemplative practice, are also addressed.
Robert K. Johnston
This chapter traces the development of religion and film studies, tracking its growth from early biblically-themed shorts prior to World War I to today’s expansive theological/religious conversation with world cinema and Hollywood blockbusters. Historically, such studies centered in Christianity. Theological strategies through the decades have included “avoidance,” “caution,” “dialogue,” “appropriation,” and “divine encounter,” significant scholarship from each being noted. Today, religion and film studies are burgeoning in popularity for several reasons: (1) movies provide people their common myths and stories in our image-based culture; (2) viewer-oriented criticism has uncovered profound experiences of transcendence at the deepest recesses of the human spirit; while (3) theology and film criticism has provided focus on the work of the Holy Spirit outside the believing community and its Scripture. New developments in the field include the discussion of world cinema and other religious traditions, and a stronger focus upon music and image, not just word.
Douglas E. Cowan
This article deals with predominant trends in the construction of apocalyptic visions in the West. Americans being the best at absorbing and reacting to simulated perceptions of apocalypse, the USA became the hub of apocalyptic pop culture, which has now spawned out myriad genres in content and narratives. An overlapping of communicating medium—using means of communicating public information to serve fictitious content—can substantially influence and trap the convictions of the masses. Apocalyptic themes range from alien encounters to planetary escape, to destruction of doomsday courtesy, natural calamity, and alien interference, and even to destructive self. It is difficult to touch upon an exact source of fear generation but it seems that the coveted effect is to instill a kind of hope amid very real, objective prospects of the same being lost. It inspires the theme of salvation from imminent apocalypse by supernatural/superhuman means.
This article examines how two Southern vernacular artists — one working in the late 19th century and the other at the end of the 20th — responded to the Bible, what they took from it, and how they made sense of what they learned. Within the century that separates Harriet Powers, the former slave, and the Revd Howard Finster (c. 1915–2001), space-age illustrator and folk-art icon, religious imagery dominates the creations of contemporary folk artists in the South. Moreover, untold numbers of both black and white artists found inspiration in the Bible. Making art intended for a variety of purposes — devotional, didactic, proselytic, and also as social commentary — these untutored artists searched the Bible to find meaning for themselves. Looking at the art of Harriet Powers, a black woman and former slave, living a century ago, and the creations of a feisty Baptist preacher who died in the 21st century, underscores not only the many differences they share but also a startling number of similarities.
Every world religion has an attitude(s) toward the visual arts that can be categorized as being either iconic, aniconic, iconoclastic, or variations thereof. This chapter considers the multiple relationships between religion and the visual arts on the principle that the artist provides meaning and value though image and symbol. The art-historical distinctions between iconography and iconology provide the focus for a discussion of the interdisciplinary methods for interpreting symbolism in religious art. Following an analysis of the traditional concerns related to religion and the visual arts, this chapter gives attention to the contemporary challenges to religious images and symbols by globalization and religious pluralism.