Makoto Fujimura emphasizes connection between art and faith
Recognizing the importance of the connection between Christianity and the arts was the charge given to students this past week when artist and author Makoto Fujimura spoke in chapel on Wednesday, April 18.
Fujimura founded the International Arts Movement, a non-profit organization “dedicated to inspiring all people to engage their culture to create a more good and beautiful world,” according to its website.
His work has been featured in several museums and institutions, including the Dillon Gallery in New York, the Sen Gallery in Tokyo and Taiku Place in Hong Kong. Through his integration of art and faith, this Boston-born artist is making waves in both the secular and religious art communities.
Found career in art while in college
Fujimura graduated from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. in 1983 with degrees in animal behavior and studio art. It was during college that he first felt led toward a career in the arts.
“I felt very strongly in college [that] I didn’t really fit in any of the categories,” he said. “I remember walking one day to the art [building] … I realized the place I was was exactly where I needed to be.”
This sense of belonging in the art community has benefitted Fujimura in both his career and his desire to bridge the gap between his faith and the arts. He believes that art is an essential part in understanding God.
“Without this God we would not have the arts — God is the artist,” he said. “We don’t think of the Bible as art — we think of it as … a book of instruction, doctrine, theology, which are all true, but it was [also] a book written by an artist.”
Importance of art in spiritual life
In addition to his chapel message, Fujimura continued the theme of artistic faith at an evening event in Calvary Chapel on Thursday, April 19 at 8:15 p.m. He spoke about many aspects of this subject, including one of his most recent works, entitled “The Four Gospels,” which illustrates the themes of the gospels in abstract ways.
“His abstract paintings pretty much decorated the Bible,” said senior art major Matt Perdue, who attended the evening session. “It was a sort of modern take on the illustrated gospels. It showed the need for art in Christianity.”
Fujimura passionately advocates for the importance of the role that art should play in both the church and in people’s spiritual lives. He believes that art and faith should not be separated, but rather combined in a way that is glorifying to God.
“The church should be a place where artists are not only welcomed, but honored,” he said. “Christians are wedding planners for a cosmic wedding [between Christ and the church]. … What wedding have we been to that has not incorporated all of the art forms?”
This relationship between the church and the arts was further explained during Fujimura’s chapel message, during which he spoke about the story of Mary, the sister of Lazarus. He showed how Mary’s character qualities mirror those of someone in the creative arts.
“Mary is the quintessential artist,” Fujimura said. “She sits at the feet of Jesus and listens.”
Art necessary for understanding God
During chapel, Fujimura also expressed his sadness at the consumption of art by mere functionality, and how the values of society have been molded to fit this.
“We live in an age where totalitarian pragmatism has taken over,” he said. “We just cannot afford beauty anymore in this society.”
This loss of beauty ties in with Fujimura’s belief that an art revival in the church is necessary. He explained that art is fundamental to understanding God, because God’s glory and entity are defined through his art in creation.
The next career step for Fujimura is the release of his retrospective monograph. This cumulative study will highlight his best works as an artist and will be released in November 2012.
Fujimura will also be the speaker at Biola’s spring 2012 undergraduate commencement ceremony.