Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hidden Art: Chapter One

Over at Ordo Amoris, Cindy Rollins's blog, we'll be reading Edith Schaeffer's wonderful book, Hidden Art, also called The Hidden Art of Homemaking. We'll cover one chapter each week. Please feel free to join us, if you have access to the book.
Chapter 1:  The First Artist

That's God, of course. Schaeffer spends a lot of time drawing her reader through all the ramifications of God as the first artist, the primary creator. I won't go through all that. But she asks some compelling questions about what Art is. And she makes a few statements worthy of close consideration for us who consider ourselves to be artists -- to be creating something worthwhile.

How do we know if something is Art (she asks)?
Is Art beauty, or depth, or expression?
Is Art communication calling for response?
Is Art the talent for involving other human beings in what otherwise would remain locked in the mind?
Is Art something that draws many into the beauty, joy and vividness of another person's understanding?
Is Art something that includes others in the torn struggling of another person's suffering?

This book was published first in 1971. I find it fascinating that so many of her possible definitions of Art include involving a person other than the artist. She seems bent on a definition that draws in the observer.

If a lone person on a deserted island created some piece of art, would it be Art?

It seems to me that in 42 years, we have digressed a bit from what Schaeffer saw as important in Art. She doesn't allude to the aspect of human talent, the artistic skill or gift. She doesn't seem interested in the artist himself, or even the art, but more in his ability to form a bond with other humans viewing the art. Why is that?

Toward the end of chapter one were observations I found worthy of underlining. Here is one. "Man was created that he might create. It is not a waste of man's time to be creative. It is not a waste to pursue artistic or scientific pursuits in creativity, because that is what man was made to be able to do" (24).

I am the mother of three college students. There is quite a bit of dusting up online, a flurry of opinions, about college studies, whether college is worth the bother and the money, whether it is financially viable or useful, how best to get a good-paying job and make a living. Few people out there think it's a good idea to spend 4 choice years of your life, go into $30,000 of debt, and come away with an English major, or a music major. Those were my two majors, by the way. What's the value of four years of studying literature or music? Will it get me money to live on?

How do you deduce the value of four years of studying beauty? In dollars? Dollars borrowed, dollars owed, dollars earned later?

Schaeffer avows boldly that it is "not a waste of time to pursue artistic ... pursuits ...." Thank you, Mrs. Schaeffer! Someone, in our modern world, needs to have the courage to say that! Oh, how I hope my 22 year old son, who is spending five years to get his music degree, will find this true.

She also says, "Man has a capacity both for responding and producing .... It is important to respond to the art of others, as well as to produce art oneself" (25). Again, wonderful observation. Don't we often divide humanity into two groups:  the Artists, and the Observers. One group makes the Art, and the others, who can't do anything artistic, must only look on and say, "Ooooh, Aaaah."

No! Everyone can create something. And those of us who do consider ourselves to be "creators," to be making something beautiful and worthy, must also be Art Consumers. We are ALL Artists and Art Consumers. It is a perpetual feast in which all are making the delicacies, and all are eating them. How much more inspiration would occur, if we all views ourselves this way?

How much more Art would be born, if everyone stopped comparing herself to others, and simply created what she, herself, loved.

That's why I'm "publishing" my little book, Greenfield Civil Wars, here on my blog. It's a humble place for a book to live. But I'm weary of my little engagement in the book world of wanting to make a pitiful dollar by hawking my book on Amazon. I don't like that. The real joy of a book is in the creating, and in the reading. I wanted to get straight to the joy. I don't want to gauge the value or success of my book by how many copies it has (or hasn't) sold. I want to gauge it by the joy it brings.

Schaeffer says that the "hidden art" that we all create -- the beautiful, joy-bringing, worthy -- "should be more important to one who knows and admits that he is made in God's image, than to those who do not" (29).  So, Christians, are you joyful in the hidden art around you? Within you?


  1. Between my BSF study this past week and reading the first chapter of this book this week I am convicted that I do NOT value the gifts God has given me as such. I am very hard on myself (which often means others are too) and I do not give God the glory for me. Sigh. Good post!

  2. I love your idea of publishing your book on your blog. I am considering writing a book but have avoided the whole branding and marketing of myself which I find rather repellant. I do not mind people making money but I hate when the cart starts driving the horse.

  3. Also I like your comment about observation and participation. Juanita mentioned this also and I had already forgotten Edith's emphasis on this which is why a book club is so helpful.

  4. Do you know, I've tried so many times to get into Schaeffer's book, and never have gotten into the swing of it. Never, never. Not that I haven't tried, either.

    For me, partly, it's been that so many Christian women enjoy it so much. Sort of like someone telling you a joke, saying ahead of time how hilarious it is, and the joke falling flat as a result.

    That's how that books strikes me. I have it built up as more gripping, but for me, it's not. Sad, probably. I realize I'm likely missing out.

  5. The point about observing and appreciating art struck me, too. I hadn't really thought about that being an important role, as well as the creating. What is the point of the creating, after all?

    Melissa - I actually don't particularly like Edith's writing style (or Elisabeth Elliot's, actually); I sometimes have to push myself through it because it grates rather than compels. But it's a personality difference that is worth overcoming to contemplate her ideas.

  6. I enjoyed reading your post this evening. I believe we all do create - in some form or fashion, whether we realize it or not. Creating a nutritious dinner for our family, creating an atmosphere of love in our homes, creating a schedule to keep our lives orderly, creating a group to meet the needs of church members who are hurting.
    It's all about perspective. And Who we are reflecting, Who we are focusing on.
    I look forward to the next chapters in our study!

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  8. i'm glad at your mentioning the creating and responding, i was going to write my second post about that, but i'm not sure i'll get to it. so, now that it's said once again, i'm happy. :)

    i also TOTALLY noticed the same thing you did about art involving another person. though i do think art can be art without that, there's always the audience of ONE. i think it is about expression AND communication. but what do i know?!

    i'm really looking forward to reading more of your thoughts. thank you for sharing. :)

  9. and now that i've thought of it a teensy second more, even with the audience of ONE, we're talking about another Person, right? :)

  10. I liked this: "How do you deduce the value of four years of studying beauty?"

    If I had the chance to redo college, I would've followed my dream and become an English major. Through parental pressure, I somehow bought into the idea that I needed to be pragmatic. I ended up with a degree in business, and in the process I settled for a very different path down Wall Street.

    I am so very thankful that God has the last word. He gave me the privilege of becoming a homeschool mom, and I am now able to live out my dream alongside my kids.

    My daughter is artistic and loves to read and write. I will be sure to remember your words in the weeks and months ahead. :-)

  11. Thanks for stopping by, ladies! I'm enjoying this book study also, if only I had more time to go to everyone's post!

    Linda, thank you for your thoughts. I do worry about my college kids. My oldest son changed his major from Chemistry (practical) to Music (the thing he enjoys). I do want him to make a living, so he can marry and have a life. As you say, I must trust God for his life, as I did for my own.

    Amy -- thanks for your thoughts -- I enjoyed your post also. And I agree that art made just by the artist, and shared with no one but God, is still definitely ART :)

  12. Thanks for your visit to my blog. I'm so looking forward to rereading this book, ans this time with a group! I'm so glad for the freedom to be creative, in our Creator's image.


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