Friday, March 29, 2013

Matt Appling’s "Life After Art”

Important things can often come in small packages.

Physically, Matt Appling’s Life After Art is a small book – 142 pages. Thematically, its size belies the important message it contains.

We are made in the image of God. And because we are made in the image of God, we are designed to be creators.

For some reason, most of us left that creative spirit behind about the time we left 6th grade. We out grew it, encouraged by peers, parents, adolescence. Creativity, like art and music (and even writing), didn’t fit our ideas of “useful” or paying occupations. The further we drifted from childhood, the more those days of joyful creativity were left behind.

Appling is not arguing that we should all become artists. Instead, he says we should “peel away” the layers of paint lacquered on our creative spirits, and discover, or rediscover, what God intended us to be. Or, to use the present tense, to find what God intends us to be.


Drawing upon his experiences as an art teacher for schoolchildren, his own childhood and life, and his understanding of the creative urge and what happens to it, Appling concisely walks us through where we were, where we are, and where we could be. His case is compelling.

“Today,” he says, “most things we consumer are cheap, unimportant, and disposable. The things we create have an exceptionally short shelf life and a rapidly approaching expiration date. We consumer, we repeat. Consume, repeat.

“We accept this, and lower our expectations.”

What we create says much about the people who do the creating. Our creativity, or lack of it, reflects the deprivation of our souls.

If we peel away the paint and find our creative spirit again, what it is that we are to create?

Appling has an answer for that, too.


Beauty that expresses the spirit of God.

It could be in art, music, writing or any of a hundred other creative endeavors. But we have the capability to create beauty.

If you doubt that, then perhaps you should sit in Appling’s art class, brush in hand (and it’s a brush, not a hammer, so don’t pound the paint on the paper), and listen to him explain why rules and confinements are important, that it’s not about painting with a disregard for the lines but using the lines to master and direct the creativity within you.

Life After Art is thought-provoking and desire-provoking. We recognize what Appling says as true because the creator image within us responds to it as true, and responds powerfully. It’s an important book, every page filled with what we have forgotten, what we need to know, and what we need to do.


Matt blogs at The Church of No People.


Maureen said...

It's interesting to me (and I'm curious why) the writer uses the word "After" in his title. My choice: To live With art, God's own creation being the greatest piece of artwork in our daily lives. That "creative urge", of which I personally think we have no shortage -- resides within all of us to be tended, cared for, and nurtured -- can draw its deepest inspiration from its most natural and abiding source. We only have to raise our heads, look, and see.

Michelle DeRusha said...

This is a great review, Glynn. I loved the book!

{happy Easter to you!}

Glynn said...

Maureen - I think the "After" in the title refers to the reality that, for most of us, life after elementary school is a life largely without direct involvement in creating art. We're supposed to "get on with life" and focus on the more important things -- academics, career, business, etc. Matt's argument is that creativity -- and creating art -- and creating beauty -- are integral parts of who we are as humans, and to deny them is in a large sense to deny ourselves.

Glynn said...

Michelle - thanks! I enjoyed it, too. In fact, I'm thinking about doing two or three more posts on key themes in the book.

SimplyDarlene said...

I haven't read it, but I see a lot of mention about this book.

Most times "art"-slanted books are too artsy-fartsy for me ((I don't know the politically correct lingo here); but, that part you wrote about peeling away the layers to find what God intends us to be, that sounds like something I could read.

Thank you. I look forward to any other reviews/insight you might give on this book.


Anonymous said...

Nice to see your interaction here today.
(in the comments)

You bring up several subjects that would be interesting to go into a little deeper...far too many to go into here.

I think it's a good review, Glynn.

Anonymous said...

Maureen - Glynn nailed the why behind the "after" in the title perfectly. For most adults, everyday creativity is something long forgotten.

SimplyDarlene - I hear you on "artsy fartsy" books. In fact, in the introduction, I tell readers that even if they are not artsy and creative, this book is still written for them. I really don't get into "artsy fartsy" myself.

Poet and Priest said...

Haven't read the book, but it seems like the "After" cd mean a couple things — 
* "OK, we're not all gonna be great artists, so "after art class, how do we do life?"
* "After" like in the book "After Virtue," where if we say art is over and "passe" (even if it's not) now what?
* After as in "following after" so it's another way to say "Life Imitates Art" (only this time it really should/does)
Great title.