Books Faith

Book: Life After Art

To win a FREE copy of Life After Art, see the comments!

Click to check out Life After Art on Amazon!
Click to check out Life After Art on Amazon!

If you know anything about public education in our country, you know it’s in a whole heap of trouble. And you’ve probably heard that Arts programs are the first to get cut. Because everyone in our culture knows that Art is expendable. But what if it’s not? What if by denying the Arts, we’re actually denying a fundamental part of who we are?

Enter Life After Art by Matt Appling. Matt’s a long-time artist and art teacher at an all-ages Christian school.

Matt applies what he’s learned at the front of the Art Room to our spirituality to offer a vibrant picture of spirituality we’ve forgotten.

Matt opens by reflecting on the massive difference between his kindergarten and sixth-grade students. He points out that

as five-year-olds, most of us had uncanny creative drives, we were generous with what we created, and we created with abandon and lack of self-awareness.

But as we grew up, we lost those qualities – not just in the Art Room, but pretty much everywhere else in our lives, too. Life After Art takes us on a journey to recover those beautiful, child-like qualities. He explores the connection between art and spirituality, and reminds (or teaches) us that we were created to be creators by a creator.

Much of Matt’s book reminded me of this amazing talk. Take 10 minutes and watch it

The highlight of Life After Art are the Creative Giant sidebars.

Matt used real life creative geniuses to illustrate his concepts. Not all of these people immediately seem like “artists”, but all undeniably shaped our culture through what they made. The Creative Giants took what could easily be forgettable, abstract ideas and made them concrete, embodied pictures.

Life After Art isn’t perfect, but the flaws don’t overshadow the whole.

Check out Matt's website!
Check out Matt’s website!

A healthy critique of our Modernist culture forms the core of Matt’s argument. Given that, he’d have done well to avail himself of some of the excellent Post-modern critiques of certainty, Scientism and the denigration of Beauty.

Instead, Matt offers some unfortunate caricatures of Post-Modernism, which then leaves him looking at Beauty and Truth through the Modernist lens he’s trying to do away with.

Another place I found myself wanting more was in Matt’s illustration of the importance of rules. He (rightly) points out that Art isn’t wholly subjective. That art has no rules and is just about “being creative” is an unfortunate stereotype. In fact, great artists are great precisely because they’ve mastered techniques like perspective and line. They pay attention to color and shade.

Matt likens this to our lives, where there is a Way we were created to live, and when we step fully into that Way, we find meaning and purpose.

But the greatest artists are greatest because they break the rules.

Picasso made a lot of people mad with pictures like this. But now he's considered one of the greats.
Picasso made a lot of people mad with pictures like this. But now he’s considered one of the greats.

The Renaissance artists broke the rules about flat painting. Then the Impressionists broke all their rules about life-likeness. And the the Cubists and then the Abstract guys… and so on and so on. Learning the rules, mastering them, then breaking them to do something new, this is core to Art Theory.

I found myself wondering what sort of spiritual application this would have. If the greatest artists are those who learn the rules and master their techniques, but then move beyond the rules to create something even greater because it surpasses expectations, what might that mean for our spirituality?

Obviously, that question leads beyond the bounds of the book, but I couldn’t help wondering as I turned the pages. And therein is Life After Art‘s greatest strength:

It’s going to create a lot of healthy, illuminating conversation.

Each chapter concludes with some helpful reflection questions that’ll help you process the book’s contents. And that’s going to be necessary if it’s been a while since you considered yourself creative or artistic.

With Life After Art, Matt brings an important conversation into the Christian community. We need to recover the idea that we’re all creators. And we need to step into our creative roles. The book’s accessible style and length make it ideal for a person who’s looking for an entry point to the conversation.

Bottom Line: Life After Art is a quick, easy read that should spark some good discussion. And we need the conversation.

YOUR TURN: To win a FREE copy, share this post on Facebook or Twitter and in the comments, answer this question: How do you create?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

By JR. Forasteros

JR. lives in Dallas, TX with his wife Amanda. In addition to exploring the wonders that are the Lone Star state, JR. is the teaching pastor at Catalyst Community Church, a writer and blogger. His book, Empathy for the Devil, is available from InterVarsity Press. He's haunted by the Batman, who is in turn haunted by the myth of redemptive violence.