I was recently offered the opportunity to tackle some graphic design work for my church, which, for me, is something of a dream come true. I've spent a lot of years trying to reconcile my art and my faith, and figure out where exactly they fit into each other, and here's an opportunity for me to tackle that publicly and get feedback from a bunch of people I respect. Naturally, I went for it.
My pastor, Mike, handed me a theme to work with: Foundations. As a guy who tends to pick out obscure parallels in my life, I find it interesting that this theme kicks off a new year of learning for me. Foundations are where things begin, where they find their support; the coming of September is for me, as it is for all students, a time of preparing for the unknowns of the year ahead. Whatever happens, it will become a foundation for the things that follow. So I've found myself doing a lot of thinking about how this theme intersects my life. What is my foundation as a man of faith? As an artist? As a person in society? And how do I want to tackle the interpretation of all this as an illustrator? Like I said, I've spent a lot of time trying to reconcile my faith and my art; a big part of that has been trying to figure out how to depict and teach the lessons of Christ through art without resorting to cliche imagery. So, I have a challenge ahead of me. Bring it on.
(I'll post the sketches at some point...and more art, as it comes. Until then, my portfolio's at http://vitaeleous.carbonmade.com/. Cheers.)
Friday, 10 August 2012
Right. To kick off this little enterprise we call "blogging", I'm going to vent a little bit of steam on a topic that's been eating at me lately. July 19th of this year saw tragedy hit Aurora, Colorado when a gunman opened fire on the audience of a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises". I'm a somewhat dedicated comic book reader and creator, and seeing the character of Batman portrayed on the big screen as well as Chris Nolan has managed over these past years has made me very happy. So when critics, reporters and the many self-proclaimed voices of the American people start to come out of the woodwork and blame Batman for the gunman in Aurora, I got...well, angry. Two blog posts in particular set me off: Adam Gopnik's short article for The New Yorker , and Harvey Yoder's article for The Mennonite World Review. Among the comments I've seen terms thrown about like "pornographic violence", "celebration of violence", and "lack of artistic merit". I'm in danger of wandering off into a wordy wilderness of cynicism at this point, so I'll cut to the chase. I think there's a huge something being missed in this issue, and it is this: This shooting happened at a Batman movie.
The internet is full of people ranting about how movies like the one being shown in Aurora inspire violence like the shooting that night, but something doesn't connect. This film, "The Dark Knight Rises", is the story of a hero. Not just any hero, either, but an American figurehead of justice that has stood against the forces of anarchy since May of 1939. I've seen concern by some people online that the attacks shown in the film display striking similarity to the events of 9/11, 2001. Yeah, there's definitely devastation in this film that looks very similar to the destruction we've seen on American soil as the result of terrorism, but here's where I lose the thread of these arguments. The film can't be promoting these acts, because guess what? In the story, it's violence committed by terrorists.
The bad guys. The characters that every one of us has been morally conditioned by Disney or the Bible or whatever system of ethics you were raised on to despise. It's the guys in masks and orange prison jumpsuits, the ones we see beating women and taking drugs. Show a clip of the film to a three-year old; if you're unsure, I guarantee he can point out for you which ones are the bad guys. It's an ages old archetype of evil. So now, someone on their keyboard tells me that millions of people across the American nation have gone to a movie. These people are fans, and there are a lot of them. They've gone to sit in padded seats while their feet stick to the floor to cheer on a hero who sacrifices everything that he cares about to save a city from the anarchist terrorists who would destroy it for their own twisted reasoning. And then this person who's telling me this comes to the conclusion that those viewers are being influenced by the film they've gone to see to commit acts of mindless violence...and I have to think that maybe you've got it backwards. You see, there are also a lot of people throwing around statistics: crime rates, firearms sales, gun registration lobbies that have failed, political standings on the issue, mental health studies and video game ratings. All these numbers are supposed to clarify the issue, but there's one stat that nobody's posted. So here it is. There was one guy in that theatre holding a rifle and shooting innocent people; there were three young men in the room who stepped into the line of fire to save the lives of those they loved. You want statistics? Statistically, that film inspired 300% more acts of heroism than acts of terrorism...and it hadn't even started playing yet.