“There are burning bushes everywhere, burning yet not consumed, and our lives can be just as miraculous. Our Making can be a visible marker of God’s gratuitous love.”
So writes Makoto Fujimuro in his book “Art + Faith” about what he calls a “Theology of Making.” I knew nothing about his artwork when I bought his book. But, always interested in the way art and faith and spirituality intersect, I wanted to see what he had to say.
Then I discovered his paintings and was stunned by the beauty I found.
He practices the ancient technique of Nihonga. His pigments are semi-precious stones crushed, such as azurite, malachite, cinnabar pigments, coarsely grounded. He writes:
“I use them not just because they are beautiful, which they are, but because they have this wonderful lineage. I use them because of the specific symbolism attached to them. For me, mineral pigments have significance as symbols; they symbolize God’s spiritual gifts to people and the glories of the saints in the Bible. In Solomon’s temple these precious stones were embedded in the walls as well as in the garments of the high priest. When you look closely at these paintings you see that they have a peculiar surface–they glitter and shine. Crushed minerals, therefore, symbolize gifts both from heaven and earth, and point to my deeper struggle to return the gifts given to the Creator.”
Fujimura quotes a passage from George Eliot’s Middlemarch, “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” Then he says it’s the artist’s mission to listen to the mystery of things and to be touched by the “keen vision and feeling” of God’s creation. He says, “This experience ‘of the other side of silence’ is the timeful potential of art, which is what the Greeks called kairos, an ‘eternal time.’ “
He also writes about the artist’s capacity to know “both the depths of sorrows and the heights of joy.” To “feel deeply the wounds and agony of life with its explosive potential.” To reveal “the roar which lies on the other side of silence.”
Fujimuro, in connecting art to Making, says he is broadening the word art to apply to every human being’s act of making. “We are all artists in that sense,” he says. “Let us reclaim creativity and imagination as essential, central, and necessary parts of our faith journey. Imagination is a gift given to us by the Creator to steward, a gift that no other creature under heaven and earth (as far as I know) has been given.”
There are burning bushes everywhere in our lives to inspire us in our Making, if only we would open our eyes and see. And remember to remove the sandals from our feet, for the place we are standing is holy ground.