another brief look at Art That Tells the Story by Chris Brewer

pub3T.jpgIn the last post I shared our enthusiasm for a brand new book, Art That Tells the Story a book we admittedly have followed as it was being produced, printed, and shipped.  Chris Brewer is a young friend of Hearts & Minds and when he read a BookNotes blog a year ago about our short-hand telling of the Biblical narrative, using “creation-fall-redemption-consummation” as a catch-phrase to illustrate that coherent overview of the Bible’s main contours, and when he also saw some of our many posts about books about the arts, well, he knew we’d be interested in this visionary little project of his.  We are honored he called us and we’ve been a fan in waiting ever since.  We respect his work under the banner of “The Gospel Through Shared Experience.”  We are just bursting with gladness that this unique project has now launched and the book is finally available. (If you were at IAM last February, you heard us talking about it; if you were at CIVA last month, you surely talked with some you had contributed work to it.)

It sells for $24.95, is an oversized paperback printed well on glossy paper.  You can see our special offer (while supplies last) of two free copies of the small British edition of Al Wolter’s Creation Regained with every purchase of Art That Tells...

Art That Tells is Story edited and compiled by Chris Brewer has a forward by Makoto Fujimura and four extended essays by Michael Witmer and includes almost 50 full color, high-quality original art reproductions.  It is a book to really enjoy.

And, oy vey, are we enjoyin’ it.  Chris, himself a savvy art critic and insightful curator of small art shows at churches and third places throughout his hometown, pulled together some exceptional contemporary Christian artists, inviting them to show pieces that told one part of the grand Biblical Story.  Since we all have this shared experience of being captivated (or confused, or alienated) by art, it is, naturally, a very appropriate mechanism to create good conversation.  I don’t think it would be fair to Chris, nor to the nuanceful and creative artists who contributed their work, but in some way, this is a high-brow, artful, and serious-minded gospel tract. I know it is a mixed metaphor, maybe even an oxymoron.  Good art, as Mako explains in his forward, in many ways glories in its “uselessness.”  It never preaches—otherwise it is mere propaganda.  But here me out.

By using imaginative and suggestion-rich, real art, this “tract” in the guise of a coffee table art book shows and invites us to (deeply and imaginatively) beholdScan1.jpg the Bible drama, the relevance of key moments in the redemptive history proclaimed by Scripture.  By showing interesting new art works, it opens up new insights about the amazing truth that we live in a God-created-spoken-into-being-cosmos.  It opens up new insight about the amazing truth that we live in a world gone haywire, due to our own damned rebellion.  It opens up new insight about the amazing truth that the Triune God of the Bible has made promises to ancient Israel, promises that lead to faithful deliverance, brought to the creation in Christ and His cross; that is, there is redemption and renewal.  This book, Art That Tells a Story, helps us “see” through new eyes, by using these peculiar gifts of color and light and texture and tone, of symbol and abstraction, of nuance and suggestion; these artifacts he printed so lovingly in this orderly book, so that we might realize that, indeed, the God of the Bible tells us a very good story indeed, a story that starts in a good garden, devolves into tragedy that even these art pieces can’t explain, and emerges into hope, a Christ-centered hope for all things.  Yes, Jesus says in Revelation, “I am making all things new.”  Chris Brewer’s curated art show in a book, Art That Tells the Story, helps us get that, at least a bit of it.  You’ve heard it said that the Old Testament prophets used dramatic gestures of civil disturbance and public drama because, when people are deaf, we must sometimes speak in sign language.  Maybe this book does that.  It helps us finally hear some of the deepest and widest implications of the one great story unfolding from Genesis to Revelation.

Who among us doesn’t long for coherence and hope?  And who, who names
the name of Christ, doesn’t know that we are baptized into His service? 
That is, we have to tell the story!  This is a great and grace-filled
tool to help you fulfill at least your part of your part of the great
commission.  Show and tell.

Buy the book and you have a ticket of admission to this show, at your fingertips anytime you want.  And–here is the point–this show, this experience, can be shared.  You can, as I’ve suggested, use this book to create conversations of great, great consequence.

Just for instance, here is one blog about using art in catechesis, and it uses one of the artists in this book, Julie Quinn.  You can see some of her abstract calligraphy pieces and reflect on what this teacher got out of them.  I don’t know if he’s right about any of this, but it’s a nice example of interesting rumination on Biblical texts in light of her art.

And, as I mentioned yesterday, in the back of Art That Tells there is an index including the website addresses of all of the artists. As you can imagine, this will allow hours of browsing pleasure and perhaps inspire you to support living artists by buying some original work from them.

Man, it’s a good day when we get to sell books like this.  I hope you are as excited about the pregnant possibilities of sharing these art works as Chris must have been when he dreamt up this project, and as excited as I am now pondering how God might use this visual re-telling of the Big Picture.  Creation, fall, redemption; restoration, hope, eternity.  Whoa.

I wish I could show you more of the excellent art that is in here but it isn’t easily found on google images.  These are moving, if often abstract pieces, and (as I said yesterday) nicely explained, or at least ruminated upon, by Chris, page by page.  It isn’t overly didactic, mind you, but nobody is left wondering what the heck these bohemians are up to.  No, this is a very lovely and clear telling, in artful and classy ways, of the truths of the Bible.  I think you could hardly go wrong  showing it, using it, giving it.  You can go to the book’s facebook page and if scroll back a bit you can see many of the original pieces that are shown in the book as installed in several Grand Rapids settings.  You can see some of the artists, too.  Kudos to Chris for getting these pictures on facebook. 

Michael Witmer’s four essays about these four chapters of the whole unfolding Bible story are solid and yet very fresh. (You’ll want to read his Heaven Is a Place on Earth after you read his brief pieces here.) They give structure and greater specificity to the meaning of the artwork.  Mr. Brewer’s explanations of the various art pieces, his brief warning, noting this line or that image, this thing to see or that important echo of another great artwork, is nearly worth the price of the book itself (it doesn’t hurt to learn from a master interpreter, you know.)  His caring lines offer a helpful guide and a tone of reflection and rumination.  It is nearly devotional, and they are very, very nicely done.

But the art is the thing.  I’ll try to arrange a few pieces here, but they tend not to be the right size for my blog platform; I’m not sure how it will look for you.  Please know that the book is very handsomely designed, very well done, itself a good piece of graphic art.  Kudos all around.

Julie Quinn is an abstract artist who sometimes uses calligraphy. She has several lovely pieces in the book.
Carving - Saturn Bowl - Manzanita Root by John Marquardt.jpg



John Marquardt has a set of lathe-turned mesquite bowls that are similiar to this…

Wayne Forte is a popular modern artist who often does overt Biblical images as in this piece inspired by Psalm 22.   Brewer notes another famous painting it echoes.


This remarkable piece needs to be studied carefully.  Is the “David and Goliath” battle shown here one about racial reconciliations?  Why a train track rather than the brook of 1 Samuel 17? Artist Jonathan Quist says this oil on canvas is of his pastor.
Cornelis Monsma - Fruitful.jpgCornelius Monsma has a spectacular, nuanced impressionistic painting of the transfiguration, but it was not legal to show it (understandably.)  This is an example of his work that I enjoyed, but the piece in Art That Tells is much more misty, wondrous, translucent.

So, with every purchase of Art That Tells The Story, we will give you two free paperbacks of Creation Regained by Albert Wolters,  a small, thoughtful book that has influenced us in understanding the Biblical basis for what some call a “reformational worldview” that explores the broadest scope and implications of each aspect of the Biblical story: creation, fall, and redemption. (As we explained in the last post, this is a special mass market version of the book that had been published in England.)

Art That Tells the Story  
and —
2 free copies of Creation Regained (British edition) with every purchase

order here
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