The Art of Social Commentary

Why Charles Dickens should be our social commentary muse.

“Where Dickens wielded a pen, today we wield a smartphone.”


“Please, sir, I want some more.” These are the famous words of the hungry orphan, Oliver Twist. The novel, so named after the main character, is one of Dickens most popular, and if you don’t know anything about the novel, you have probably still heard those words.

But beyond simply writing and creating a great story around Oliver Twist, Dickens created him for a purpose beyond the page of a book. Twist became a form of social commentary.

Read the rest at Fathom Mag >>

 

Special Revelation, General Revelation, and Chronicle’s Library of Luminaries

I’ve been an admirer of Coco Chanel’s ambition, designs, and other aspects of her life story, so when I found out Chronicle Books had a series of illustrated biographies called Library of Luminaries and that Coco Chanel was one of them, I was all in. Chanel’s biography was released this past August along with one on Frida Kahlo, joining books on Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf. Nina Cosford illustrates these women’s stories with delicately sharp watercolor designs, while Zena Alkayat pieces together quotes and personal letters from each author or artist, along with her own words, in handwritten text.

This concept of placing equal emphasis on text and visuals is a rarity in adult literature, perhaps even more so for Christians…

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

Book Review: The Biggest Story

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Once upon a time my husband pre-ordered a book from Crossway. We waited and waited; then – in a brown package – it appeared at our doorstep. Our order had arrived and we couldn’t be more pleased. The End.

Not a very exciting story, is it? Well, the story inside the book from my personal story is a very exciting story. It’s about Jesus Christ — the most important character. Author Kevin DeYoung does a great job telling the greatest story ever told in his new children’s book: The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden.

DeYoung takes adults and children on a sweeping aerial tour of the Bible; he weaves together key stories and thematic elements from the beginning to the end of God’s Word and presents us with a beautifully concise and simple masterpiece. Adults and children alike will have a firm grasp of the broad purpose and scope of the Bible after reading this book. In all ten short chapters DeYoung provides a God and Christ centered approach to the Biblical text — he consistently points everything back to God and the person of Jesus Christ.

Not only has DeYoung done well constructing the broad Biblical story, but the illustrator — Don Clark — has brought truth alive through his art. As I’ve been reading this book to my three year old for the second time, he asks questions about the images; he is captivated by the stories contained in each illustration. Because that is what Clark has done —  he not only has drawn images depicting the reality of the stories, but has also drawn abstract images conveying abstract Biblical themes.

Reading this book to my preschooler has stirred up questions from him and discussion between us, but it’s also reminded me about the promises of God in Christ: his faithfulness to a faithless people, and the greatness of God’s redemptive plan from the beginning. I recommend it as a bedtime story for kids, but also a book for adults to remember how they are apart of this big story. And if you rip out any of the pages to frame as art around your house, I won’t blame you.

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Christ & Culture Series: Juggling Artistry, Business, and Theology

I’m kicking off a new series about how our life in Christ connects to culture. We can’t hide ourselves from our culture; we are fully immersed in the good, the bad, and the ugly. We are free to take pleasure in certain God-given areas of culture and many are important and even beneficial to the Christian life. I hope you join in on the dialogue with each post in this series. 

What better way to start than with an interview of my husband? Joshua Wann wears many hats (literally and figuratively), can do many things, but above all he desires to honor God daily with the way he engages the culture.

One of Josh’s first ‘hats’ (have I mentioned he has a lot of hats?) started in 2003 to give those in Christian hip-hop a platform for releasing music without having to deal with the business side. His record label was dubbed Lamp Mode Recordings and was intended to make music primarily for the edification and teaching of the Church.

Josh’s second ‘hat’ is Scouts Honor, which started in 2012. It began as a combination graphic design, branding, and video production company, but has since focused solely on video production. It exists to bring higher quality production value to mid-sized companies and musicians.


What was your purpose and desire in starting Lamp Mode?

At the time, just out of college, it was really just a hobby that turned into a career. I waned to create a record label that did away with a lot of the “industry” and business politics that tend to squelch artist autonomy. Lamp Mode had a philosophy of giving artist’s creative control with financial backing. In addition, there was the theological thread of all the artists. At that time there wasn’t an iTunes, or digital market that exists today. Because of that, it was hard for an artist to be independently successful. I wanted to create something that bridged the gap between a commercial model and an independent artist model.

What was the approach you took in making music and in the creative direction of Lamp Mode?

The approach was to let the artist be the focal point, not the music business. Most commercial models of a record label are focused on profits and market value. I wanted a record label that focused on highlighting the artist as artist, even if that meant not having commercial success. If creating profit is the end goal for any art, then the art is diminished and relegated to only a select few. In the end, that’s a short-sighted way to run a company or even an industry. It doesn’t create good music, but only creates a product.

The balance is that Lamp Mode needs to be mindful of the business and commercial viability of its artists, but not in a way in which it trumps everything else. We always had to juggle artistry, business and theology. All three are necessary components of the brand.

Was the business affected by your Christian beliefs? If so, how?

The only part of the label that was affected by my Christianity would be the theological component. Before becoming a Christian and being involved in the music industry, I had the same philosophy of letting the artist reign supreme, even at the expense of the business side of things. So the philosophy came from wanting to see the artist have full creative control, but the Christian convictions fueled the content of the music and the artists that we chose to work with.

How do you feel God was glorified in the process and end product of your musical and art endeavors?

On the horizontal level, I feel that he was glorified in treating our artists more fair than any other record label that I know of. I don’t know of any other record label that has treated their artist’s the way that we have, which also includes the deals we made with them financially. I believe this comes down to just doing good business. Doing things ethically, treating people right and having integrity. In our industry, we still have a good name and reputation.

On the more vertical side of things, I believe that he was glorified by the nature of the content of the music. Most of the music is focused on the character of God, the message of the Bible, and communicating the gospel.

How does God’s Word speak to all this?

From creation man is called to work. The way in which he works reflects the image of God. As a worker, there is opportunity to do good or to do harm. I believe we did good work most of the time and that it honored him. Also, in the Bible it speaks of doing everything to the glory of God. In secular work that looks like having integrity. In work of a more religious nature that means representing him accurately. Those are the things that bring him glory.

How do you think our culture views art and music?

Without trying to be exhaustive, I think one example is what I would call the “passive consumer”. They fall victim to what the machine feeds them. The machine is the totality of the industry. The executives of the record labels and people in charge of the distribution channels. They determine what gets most visibility, and in turn, the consumer is programmed. The consumer doesn’t make a decision about what they like or what is good. They just get fed by the industry, by what they hear on the radio, and by what they see on TV.

I think all people should be able to step back from the machine of the industry and be able to think for themselves. They should be able to determine what they like, regardless of what is popular and what isn’t. They are not the only victims. Unfortunately, many artists lives are disrupted by the pursuit of the dream. They might share relative success for a year or two, only to be abandoned by the next artist of the day.

How should art and music be a unique and different view for the Christian? And how can we share common ground with our culture?

The Christian should be able to think holistically about these things. One way to think about this is: a person’s art should not be exploited for profit. This is really an exploiting of the artist. We should care enough about justice and fairness that we reject industries that don’t treat people fairly. This is part of loving our neighbor. Any time profit is the ultimate goal, people will be hurt. We should be able to step back from the machine that the word propagates and see it for what it is. See it from God’s perspective. In turn, that can help us to also not be influenced by it.

Sharing common ground with the culture is one of those things that can be terribly misunderstood. It is not a bad thing, in fact it is unavoidable. I think the first thing is to acknowledge that we already share a great deal in common. It is as simple as the language we speak, to the way we make music, the equipment we use, the way we distribute music, use of the internet, etc. There is undeniable overlap. It’s in this overlap in which we can develop relationships and foster conversations.

Series Part 2 : Education >>

Heaven is Our Bucket List

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven.  Not because I’ve experienced any recent loss, but just from thinking about writing. It’s been over a month since my last post (a combination of the holidays and lack of motivation), and it made me wish I had more time to write. This catapulted into thoughts like, “Will I ever write more than this?” Will I write a book someday?” “Or just get published somewhere a little more noteworthy?”

Before I descended into despair, a new thought sprouted up and choked out the others.  The thought of heaven.  My thoughts were grounded too much on this Earth.  I was believing this life was my only chance at…well, life. My death isn’t the end for me or for my writing. I’ll have all of eternity to focus in on my craft. Maybe I’ll even be better at it in some ways? I’m sure being without sin has its perks.

Heaven and Motherhood

Thinking about heaven has not only affected the way I think about writing, but the way I think about motherhood. There is so much of eternity wrapped up in rearing children. One of the most frustrating things about being a parent is working hard and not always getting immediate results or rounds of applause. We might see some fruit from our parenting labors in this lifetime, but many we won’t know or see until heaven.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Every sacrifice for our children, every teaching moment, every loving word and action, every time we grow in character through parenting is an eternal thing. We’re building an unseen eternal kingdom in our homes. It’s much more glorious than snotty noses and poopy diapers. We might not hear shouts of approval and rounds of applause now for every mundane task we do, but in heaven we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.

Dream About Heaven

It’s important to dream about heaven. To dream about what we will do and accomplish there. Every dream and aspiration can be met in heaven if we can’t do it on Earth. Who needs a bucket list with this kind of guarantee?

Heaven is hope for the weary mom. It’s the ultimate comfort, because every trial and disappointment we face points to something better. It should make us groan and long for heaven.

2 Corinthians 5:1-2 says, “For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.”

Every negative thing we feel or know on this Earth turns into a positive in heaven.  Every hardship is a blessing if it makes us long for heaven. Are you discouraged by your lack of progress in the Christian faith? Groan and long for heaven. Where you will be fully perfected in the way God already sees you through Christ. Do you feel distant from God? Does he seem silent? Groan and long for heaven where you will never feel this way again. You will finally see his face and feel his presence forever.

Heaven is for the sinner saved by grace, it’s for the mom who is Queen of the mundane, and it’s for the artist who needs more time and opportunity than this life can offer.