Mako’s oasis

From Philip Yancey on one of my favorite artists, Makoto Fujimura.  (Excerpted from full article at A Holy Experience.)

There are three kinds of Christians that outsiders to the faith respect: pilgrims, activists, and artists.”

I spent some time with an unlikely spokesman for religion and the arts, a Japanese-American by the name of Makoto Fujimura.

Mako’s paintings hang in almost every major museum in Japan and in the U.S., too, his work commands respect and high prices. He was honored with a career retrospective in Tokyo before he turned forty, and as a Presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts, Fujimura served as an international ambassador for the arts.

A thoughtful Christian, Fujimura was also named the 2014 recipient of the Religion and the Arts Award given annually by American Academy of Religion.

One thing about Mako impresses me more than his many accomplishments: In the wider artistic community he lives out his faith with grace and compassion.

On September 11, 2001, Mako was residing a few blocks from Ground Zero in an area popular with artists. After the World Trade Center disaster, with many of these artists shut out of their homes and studios, Mako opened a communal studio to allow them to continue working. He called it his tea house, and dedicated it as “an oasis of collaboration by Ground Zero artists.”

In the safety of Mako’s studio, these artists rediscovered other values–beauty, humaneness, courage, gentleness–and their works began to reflect this new outlook.

For example, one avant-garde artist who had worked to “decode gender and sexuality” made a different kind of creation, folding hundreds of white origami butterflies and arranging them in a beautiful pattern.

For six months the artists held exhibits, performances, poetry readings, and prayer gatherings in this safe place, this oasis. As Mako later commented, “our imaginative capacities carry a responsibility to heal, every bit as much as they carry a responsibility to depict angst.”

Art succeeds when it speaks most authentically to the human condition, and when believers do so with skill, others takes note.

The Christian artist may offer consolation to a wounded planet even while awakening a desire for ultimate healing.

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