Ask an Artist…(Makoto Fujimura)

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

I’ve finally caught up on scheduling our “Ask a…” interviews for the spring, and I think you’re going to really enjoy the lineup. We’ve got a variety of well-known theologians, biblical scholars, musicians and church leaders scheduled, as well as interesting people eager to share about their faith, lifestyle, interests, stories, and areas of expertise. 

Today I am pleased to introduce Makoto Fujimura for “Ask an Artist.” 

Makoto Fujimura is an artist, writer, and speaker who is recognized worldwide as a cultural shaper. A Presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts from 2003-2009, Makoto served as an international advocate for the arts, speaking with decision makers and advising governmental policies on the arts. Makoto’s work is exhibited at galleries around the world, including Dillon Gallery in New York, Sato Museum in Tokyo, The Contemporary Museum of Tokyo, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts Museum, Bentley Gallery in Arizona, Gallery Exit and Oxford House at Taikoo Place in Hong Kong, and Vienna’s Belvedere Museum. 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.

Makoto founded the International Arts Movement in 1992, a non-profit whose “Encounter” conferences have featured cultural catalysts such as Dr. Elaine Scarry, Dennis Donoghue, Billy Collins, Dana Gioia, Calvin DeWitt and Miroslav Volf.  His second book, Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture, is a collection of essays bringing together people of all backgrounds in a conversation and meditation on culture, art, and humanity. In celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible, Crossway Publishing commissioned and published The Four Holy Gospels, featuring Makoto’s illuminations of the sacred texts. In 2011 the Fujimura Institute was established and launched the Four Qu4rtets, a collaboration between Makoto, painter Bruce Herman, Duke theologian/pianist Jeremy Begbie, and Yale composer Christopher Theofanidis, based on T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. The exhibition will travel to Baylor, Duke, and Yale Universities, Gordon College and other institutions around the globe. Bucknell University honored him with the Outstanding Alumni Award in 2012. He is a recipient of two Doctor of Arts Honorary Degrees, from Belhaven University in 2011 and Biola University in 2012.

I had the privilege of hearing Makoto speak at the Eighth Letter conference several years ago. He spoke about how artists can often be found in the margins of the church, in “exile.” 

He said, of the church:

“Artists have insight into the invisible qualities of reality, but you have forced them to serve only the visible, the utilitarian and the pragmatic. Artists have skill and power that dictators are either afraid of or want to use, and you, the church, unwisely neglected them. The first people known to be filled with the Holy Spirit were not priests, kings, or generals, but artists named Bazelel and Oholiah—it was they who built Moses’ tabernacle. Even the Babylonian kings wanted God’s artists after they conquered Israel, so they brought the artists to their land first. God himself was, is and always shall be an artists, and he speaks through prophets and poets. The Bible begins with creation and ends with a new creation. Everywhere in between God has chosen broken vessels, his creative creatures, to create in love. What would he say about you exiling his artists? Perhaps something like this: I AM an artist.” 

You know the drill. If you have a question for Makoto about faith, art, or the challenges of living as an artist in today's world,  leave it in the comment section. Be sure to utilize the "like" feature so we can get a sense of what questions are of most interest to you. After 24-hours, I'll pose seven of the most popular questions to Makoto and post his responses next week. 

Ask away!

(See the rest of the "Ask a..." series here.)

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