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Episode Summary

Makoto Fujimura joins Miroslav Volf to discuss Art & Faith: A Theology of Making. Fujimura is a painter who practices the Japanese art of nihonga, or slow art.

"Jesus is the great kintsugi master."

"Something that's broken is already more valuable than when it's whole."

"The imagination creates, through the fractures, a river of gold, a mountain of gold."

Makoto Fujimura joins Miroslav Volf to discuss Art & Faith: A Theology of Making. Fujimura is a painter who practices the Japanese art of nihonga, or slow art. His abstract expressionist pieces are composed of fine minerals he grinds himself and paints onto several dozens of layers, which take time and close attention both to make and to appreciate.

Mako and Miroslav discuss the theology and spirituality that inspires Mako's work, the creative act of God mirrored in the practice of art, the unique ways of seeing and being that artists offer the world, which is, in Mako's words "dangerously close to life and death." They reflect on the meaning of Christ's humanity and his wounds, the gratuity of God in both creation from nothing and the artistic response in the celebration of everything.

Show Notes

  • Makoto Fujimura's Art & Faith: A Theology of Making
  • Illuminated Bible by Makoto Fujimura
  • Mary, Martha, & Lazarus
  • Genesis Creation Narrative
  • Art follows in the footsteps of the creator
  • The reasons for God's creation
  • Why would an all-sufficient God create anything?
  • God as "a grand artist with no ego and no need to create."
  • Communicating about art and theology outside the boundaries of the institutional church
  • Reconciliation between art and faith
  • God's gratuitous creation doesn't need a utilitarian purpose
  • Creating vs making
  • In artistic creation, something new does seem to emerge
  • "God is the only artist"
  • The scandal of God's incarnation: In becoming incarnate, God's utter independence is flipped to utter dependence.
  • Psalmist's cry to God
  • How art breaks the ordinary
  • The artist's way of seeing and being
  • Seeing as survival
  • Seeing with the eyes of your heart
  • "Artists stay dangerously close to death and life"
  • Getting beyond the rational way of seeing
  • Letting the senses become part of our prayer
  • William James on conversion: everything becomes new for the converted
  • Seeing with a new frame of beauty
  • Faith and the authenticity of seeing with the eyes of an artist
  • Emily Dickenson on the "tender pioneer" of Jesus
  • Hartmut Rosa on resonance—in modernity, the world becomes dead for us, and fails to speak with us, but we need a sense of resonance
  • Kandinsky and Rothko—artists' intuitive sense of resonance that has escaped the church in the wake of mid-century destruction
  • Mary's wedding nard oil and the gratuitous cost of art
  • The non-utilitarian nature of art
  • Using precious materials in art
  • Tear jars
  • Miroslav's mother regularly weeping and crying: "I wonder why God gave us tears? Only humans are the animals who cry."
  • Helmut Plessner's Laughing and Crying: Weeping as relinquishing self-possession and merging the self with the flesh (as opposed to reason/ratio or technique/techne)
  • N.T. Wright—the greatest miracle is that Jesus chose to stay human.
  • Jesus's remaining wounds
  • Co-mingling our tears with Christ's tears
  • Kintsugi and Japanese Slow Art
  • Accentuating the fracture
  • "The imagination creates, through the fractures, a river of gold, a mountain of gold."
  • This is the best example of new creation.
  • "What would happen to our scars? That's a question with no answer."
  • Through his wounds, our wounds would look different
  • Jesus is the great kintsugi master, leading a path of gold along the fractures of life
  • The permanence of scars
  • Is it possible to be in the good and be truly joyous?
  • "God is not the source of beauty. God is beauty."
  • Fundamental "new newness": So new that it evades understanding
  • Goodness, truth, and beauty
  • God loved the world so much, it wasn't enough to merely admire it—he had to join it.
  • What is a life worthy of our humanity?
  • Fujimura's practice of art as an attempt to answer that question.
  • "Our lives as the artwork of God, especially as a collaborative community in the Body of Christ."

About Makoto Fujimura

Makoto Fujimura is a leading contemporary artist whose process driven, refractive “slow art” has been described by David Brooks of New York Times as “a small rebellion against the quickening of time”. Robert Kushner, in the mid 90’s, written on Fujimura’s art in Art in America this way: “The idea of forging a new kind of art, about hope, healing, redemption, refuge, while maintaining visual sophistication and intellectual integrity is a growing movement, one which finds Makoto Fujimura’s work at the vanguard.”

Fujimura’s art has been featured widely in galleries and museums around the world, and is collected by notable collections including The Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, The Huntington Library as well as Tikotin Museum in Israel. His art is represented by Artrue International in Asia and has been exhibited at various venues including Dillon Gallery, Waterfall Mansion, Morpeth Contemporary,  Sato Museum in Tokyo, Tokyo University of Fine Arts Museum, Bentley Gallery in Phoenix, Gallery Exit and Oxford House at Taikoo Place in Hong Kong, Vienna’s Belvedere Museum, Shusaku Endo Museum in Nagasaki and Jundt Museum at Gonzaga University. He is one of the first artists to paint live on stage at New York City’s legendary Carnegie Hall as part of an ongoing collaboration with composer and percussionist, Susie Ibarra.  Their collaborative album "Walking on Water" is released by Innova Records.

As well as being a leading contemporary painter, Fujimura is also an arts advocate, writer, and speaker who is recognized worldwide as a cultural influencer. A Presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts from 2003-2009, Fujimura served as an international advocate for the arts, speaking with decision makers and advising governmental policies on the arts. His book “Refractions” (NavPress) and “Culture Care” (IVPress) reflects many of his thesis on arts advocacy written during that time. His books have won numerous awards including the Aldersgate Prize for “Silence and Beauty” (IVPress). In 2014, the American Academy of Religion named Fujimura as its 2014 “Religion and the Arts” award recipient. This award is presented annually to professional artists who have made significant contributions to the relationship of art and religion, both for the academy and a broader public. Previous recipients of the award include Meredith Monk, Holland Cotter, Gary Snyder, Betye & Alison Saar and Bill Viola. Fujimura's highly anticipated book "Art+Faith: A Theology of Making" (Yale Press, with foreword by N.T. Wright, 2021) has been described by poet Christian Wiman as "a real tonic for our atomized time".

Fujimura founded the International Arts Movement in 1992, now IAMCultureCare, which over sees Fujimura Institute. In 2011 the Fujimura Institute was established and launched the Four Qu4rtets, a collaboration between Fujimura, painter Bruce Herman, Duke theologian/pianist Jeremy Begbie, and Yale composer Christopher Theofanidis, based on T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. The exhibition has travelled to Baylor, Duke, and Yale Universities, Cambridge University, Hiroshima City University and other institutions around the globe.

Bucknell University honored him with the Outstanding Alumni Award in 2012.

Fujimura is a recipient of four Doctor of Arts Honorary Degrees; from Belhaven University in 2011, Biola University in 2012, Cairn University in 2014 and Roanoke College, in February 2015. His Commencement addresses has received notable attention, being selected by NPR as one of the “Best Commencement Addresses Ever”. His recent 2019 Commencement Address at Judson University, was called “Kintsugi Generation”, laying out his cultural vision for the next generation.

Production Notes

  • This podcast featured artist Makoto Fujimura and theologian Miroslav Volf
  • Edited and Produced by Evan Rosa
  • Hosted by Evan Rosa
  • Production Assistance by Martin Chan & Nathan Jowers
  • A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School
  • Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture:
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