New Square Halo art books

We donÕt get out all that much for purely social pleasuresÑtied to the family business, too busy, trying to watch the budget, blah, blah, blahÑso it was a particularly nice gesture of Lancaster friends Ned & Leslie Bustard to invite us to dinner at their very cool, simply but artistically appointed, urban row home. Why might you care about this?
The Bustards are co-owners and chief editors for Square Halo Books. You can learn all about them here, or read my older reflections on their good books, here. Square Halo deserves to have someone tell their little story (anybody from Books & Culture or CT looking in on this? Call me. I write for cheap.) Briefly, it can be said that they cooked up this plan to have a classy little indie publisher that does theological books (like Alan BauerÕs The Beginning and The End) and good stuff about the arts. They have made quite a name for themselves, pouring themselves out as a labor of love to bring their first handful of books about Christian perspectives in the arts. IÕve raved here before about And It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God (we have a few left, then it will be out of print until the new, revised and considerably expanded edition hits later this year) and the excellent collection of interviews and artpieces, Objects of Grace: Conversations on Creativity and Faith edited by James Romaine. TheyÕve got a few other great titles, and we stock them here at the shop.
Last evening, we actually got to pick up and hold the brand new collection that they designed for CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) entitled Faith + Vision: Twenty-five Years of Christians in the Visual Arts. It is a spectacularly glorious example of contemporary artists and (taa-daaa) they were kind enough to use a blurb by me on the back (I had seen all the advance page proofs and text before.) The book deserves a more lengthy evaluation (watch the website) but for now, here is what I wrote about it upon first seeing it:

Nicholas Wolterstorff reflects in his important introduction upon the double alienation felt by many of the artists whose work graces this gorgeous book and it is a tough testimony that should be read by church folk everywhere; what damage we have done to hinder the artists amongst us, what a mediocre ethos we have too often created which discourages those with gifts of brooding allusiveness, creative imaginativity or colorful joy. But his pondering is only part of the story: herein is documented in word and image, the pages of this book record the glorious work of an organization dedicated to supporting the Christian artist. CIVA is a wonderful association and this book shows off the God-blessed glory of their membersÕ work in extraordinary fashion. Thank God for the gentle steadfastness of CIVA, for those who compiled this excellent book, and for Square Halo who publishes manna like this.

Joyfully and significantly, Square Halo also produced a collected volume of the important work of Sandra Bowden (herself a notable leader in CIVA and a wonderful art collector and artists.) Not only does The Art of Sandra Bowden showcase beautiful reproductions of SandraÕs fine work, it has criticism and essays and tributes to her by some thoughtful essayists (like the very sharp NY critic, James Romaine.) This is a beautiful, beautiful book and to see it, too, while trying to sip white wine with Ned and Leslie and keep an eye on our passel of young daughters, was nearly overwhelming. Maybe like you, I will have to save my nickels and dimes and buy these as soon as I can. In the meantime, they will soon grace the shelves of Hearts & Minds. We want to support Square Halo and get their good books into stores, reviewed, and bought and given as gifts. Know anybody that cares about GodÕs glory being seen in a respectable renewal of faith-based modern art?
Lastly, in time for the CIVA summer gathering, as were these two aforementioned titles, Eerdmans just released a major, major coffee table book edited by near-by Messiah College art prof, Ted Prescott. Entitled A Broken Beauty, this oversized book has what looks like brilliant essays and tons of nicely produced, fabulous Christian art. Thanks be to God for a book like this, a solid collection chapters of thoughtful reflection in Christian art historiography and aesthetics, but just a real classy gift book, too. What a treasure!
And the good news doesn’t stop here. We are very, very excited to announce that Calvin Seerveld’s significant and widely-quoted (but hard to find in stores) Rainbows for the Fallen World is now back in print, with an updated bibliography and a slightly new cover. We have it and are eager to let folks know—we’ve had not a few inquiries over recent years. Seerveld is another Christian leader in the arts and aesthetic theory (and a bit of a hero of ours here.) We will comment more on Rainbows…in months to come, you can be sure.
So: in any season any one of these four books would be a treat, and I would be shouting from the rooftops. Having three real art books and a re-issue of Seervled to promote is nearly a minor miracle. Let us pray that none fall the through the cracks, that they get reviewed and somehow promoted. (Do you think these guys have the huge funds to do national advertising? Do you think Hearts & Minds does? Ugh.) Anyone have ideas how we can promote these kind of thoughtful, accessible but somewhat bohemian Christian artbooks? And while your thinking about ordering these, or telling your local library about them, or donating them to a church resource room, why not say a pray for the Bustard family and Square Halo?

5 thoughts on “New Square Halo art books

  1. Byron, are these books not carried in the big venues like Borders or B and N? If not, why not? Joe

  2. They are up on Amazon right now and will be available once THEY ARE RELEASED. Byron saw pre-release copies. Though they will be available to one and all (even B&N, should they want them) by the end of the month.

  3. Byron, we’ve enjoyed both And It Was Good and Objects of Grace immensely, and recently included the latter as part of an Art and Faith readers group that we just concluded through the Center. Please pass on to the Bustards our admiration and thanks for the risk that they took to start Square Halo, and thanks to you for highlighting their story.

  4. Joe,Good question! Thanks for asking. I don’t know the answer in this specific situation, but I do know that it often works like this: independent presses don’t have the money for a sales represenitive to visit the main offices of the buyers for these chains. (Often, there is just one buyer who selects the books for the entire mega-chain.) If the small press doesn’t get in to see that person, or if that person isn’t astute enough to understand the significance of a certain book, he or she just doesn’t order any for the said Big Box store. For instance, some buyer somewhere at Barnes & McNobel decided that they should all stock one copy of Os Guinness’ important work Unspeakable but oodles of stuff by liberal theologians like Spong. So the local flavor is lost, the biases of one guy shapes the literary landscape of the whole country and best sellers are “made” because one lucky sales rep had 30 seconds to pitch her book to the Right Guy at the Top. It is very disconcerting, of course, to think of this monopolization of the book world. I have no plans for a big reform, but I would hope, at least, we support the smart smaller stores. In other words, buy your books from us. ;-)Thanks.Byron

  5. I’m so glad to have found you! I’ve blog rolled you, so now I’ll be stalking you on a regular basis. You’ve made my day…;)Peace in Him,Michele

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