FujRefr 09-06-84


A Journey of faith, art, and culture


Makoto Fujimura

NavPress, 2009, 174 pp., ISBN 978-1-60006-301-5


Fujimura is a noted Japanese American artist who had a transformation of faith in the '90s.  This book contains photos of a number of his art pieces and selections from his journal from 2003 to 2006, much of it in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  He lives in New York City just a few blocks from Ground Zero.  Refractions is not merely the title of the book but a whole underlying philosophical framework for his creativity and life. 


"God has taught me as an artist and a follower of Christ to live and work for the 'prosperity of the city' (Jeremiah 29) in the ashes of September 11, 2001.  Most Saturday mornings between 2003 and 2006, I sat down to reflect, or refract, on issues related to war and peace, but from the vantage point of an artist, a father, and a husband." (9)  "I also dwell in the multifaceted reality of the post-modern visual arts world, a multiphrenic world of shock, cynicism, and irony.  I write from within that world, from the perspective of someone who loves to engage with and create art but also as a Christian whose central identity is in Christ, the ultimate Artist and Peacemaker." (10)


"The destiny of art in our time is to transmit from the realm of reason to the realm of feeling the truth." (11, quoting Tolstoy)


"In my studio, I use ground minerals such as malachite and azurite, layering them to create prismatic refractions, or 'visual jazz.'  Via my art I hope to create a mediated reality of beauty, hope, and reconciled relationships and cultures."  "We must be willing to be broken ourselves into prismatic shards by the Master Artist, God, so that Christ's light can be refracted in us." (12)


"…we must pause to pay attention to the details of life…and such observational skills must be cultivated as a form of discipline, even in the midst of the hectic lives we lead."  "…dedicate a space, even a small desk, for working on nothing other than your art, whatever medium that may be.  Make yourself sit down in front of that dedicated space.   …copy the last stanza you wrote….Most of the time you will get your 'second wind as well."  "I may not feel creative at all.  But my second wind kicks in to provide surprising moments of creative bursts."  "An artist needs to be attuned to the nuances and subtleties of life in order to create." (16)


"Artists are often found at the margins of society, but they are, like the shepherds, often the first to notice the miracles taking place right in front of us." (27)


"Good art can mediate deeply engaged dialogue that wrestles with the core issues of humanity." (34)


"An artist's journey to believe in heaven can lead that artist to produce works mirroring that hope and can give others…the permission to speak of that redemptive possibility.  Art has the capacity to challenge preset presumptions about what we believe, to operate in the gap between the church and the world, and to address deeply spiritual issues."  (39)


"It has been said that we worship what our tallest building symbolize."  "The Twin Towers were the twin visions of technology and commerce flowing right out of modernism." (45)


"For many artists…the fires of September 11 exposed the 'rules' of postmodernism as irrelevant and narcissistic." (46)


"Art is an inherently hopeful act, an act that echoes the creativity of the Creator.  Every time an architect imagines a new building, an artist envisions the first stroke of a brush on a white canvas, a poet seeks a resonant sound in words…that act is done in hope; the creator reaches out in hope to call the world into that creation.  And what if the creator reaches out to the Creator, the source and origin of creativity?  Would not God be delighted?"  (69)


"Despite our fallen nature, god desires to reflect goodness, beauty, and truth in us.  God desires to refract his perfect light via the broken, prismatic shards of our lives.  Art and creativity will end up being delivered back to the Creator's hands in that pure light.  God's judgment of our works will then 'reveal with fire' to 'test the quality of each [person's] work" (I Corinthians 3:13).  God will even work via our imperfect works and will purify them to God's good purposes.  Therefore, every day in my studio I endeavor to invite this holy fire into my life and my work, rather than to evade the light." (70)


"Education is a faith-based occupation: If we do not believe in the future of the child and the child's capacity to learn, to have faith in the child, why teach?  And if the students did not believe in that future too why learn?"  "I can assume that such a thing as teaching is beneficial because I have been wooed by the Bible to have faith in the God who communicates and, as a result, to have faith in communication itself." (87)


"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance." (Aristotle, p. 109)


"Tolstoy stated, 'Art is not a pleasure, a solace, or an amusement; art is great matter.  Art is an organ of human life, transmitting man's reasonable perception into feeling.'  Art is a building block of civilization. …  Art is everywhere and has already taken root in our lives.  Therefore, the question is not so much 'why art?' but 'which art?' …  We become patrons of the arts by going to see movies, plays, and concerts or by watching television.  We are presented with a choice, and this choice is a responsibility of cultural stewardship.  Just as we have responsibility for natural resources, so do we have responsibility to be stewards of our culture." (111)


"If we do not teach our children, and ourselves, that what we imagine and how we design the world can make a difference, the culture of cynicism will do that for us.  If we do not infuse creativity, if we do not take the initiative to help our children imagine better neighborhoods and cities, despair will ruin their imaginative capacities and turn them into destructive forces.  These are the lessons of Columbine and 9/11." (112)


"We have tried to teach [our children] that success is not the worldly attainment of money and fame but that success is being faithful to the unique journey God has called them to." (131)


"What is the five-hundred year question?  Well, it's a long-term, historical look at the reality of our cultures that asks, What ideas, what art, what vision in our current culture has the capacity to affect humanity for more than five hundred years?"  [Like the painting Madonna and Child, by Fra Angelico]  "We are immersed in a visual culture that squeezes life into fifteen-second commercials with instant gains."  "Rather than profundity, they pine after instant recognition and fame."  "Meanwhile, artists who labor to develop their craft, artists who are committed to a longer view of their art, suffer."  "As a Christian, I stagger and grieve because I do not see anyone on the horizon who creates and paints today who would rival Fra Angelico's angelic weight."  "Will we see another Renaissance in the days to come?  Will we have another chance to steward our culture, without losing our identity and faith in the process?"  (141-43)


"If we are saved for both the new heaven and the new earth, then we had better begin 'storing up treasures' by bringing eternal grace into our ordinary, earthly days." (145)



* * * * * *

Your comments and book recommendations are welcome.

To discontinue receiving book notes, hit Reply and put Discontinue in the text.