The Primary Focus is Art


Where are the artists whose primary focus is art? It is a given that artists work from their own cultural context and life circumstances; this we can expect. If art is a blender, then the artist’s life, training and influence are what goes into the mix. What comes out is art, at least some of the time. And it is the artist that throws the switch.

– Some artists, iconographers especially, can fit religion in a neat and tidy way with their craft. This is evident in their ability to assimilate to proscribed traditions. Their primary focus seems to be on faith.

– For other artists, their art reveals a road map of their seekings, spiritual and otherwise. Their body of work is a set of visual morning pages. Their primary focus also seems to be on faith.

– And then there are the artists whose work reveals the quality of their listening and their response to the call to originality. Pie-Raymond Regamey, the French priest and visionary, wrote in the mid-20th century that ‘strictly speaking sacred art only requires a sacred character of the actual artistic creation, of the artist’s exercise of his [or her] art.’ For artists such as these, their primary focus is art. I think we need a deeper understanding of this; I certainly do.

On View: “Little Buds Tell Us Spring is Near”, watercolor on paper by Emma Lou Martin.

Emma Lou Martin will teach a workshop on the use of watercolor in the landscape and the studio at Art and Soul 2008, the annual conference at The Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. To download information about this year’s conference, click here.

Pie-Raymond Regamey quotation from Theological Aesthetics – A Reader, ed. Gesa Elsbeth Thiessen. By Gesa Elsbeth Thiessen. Published 2005, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. Originally published: London : SCM Press, 2004. To purchase a copy of this book, click here.

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