New May Intensive Course Links Visual Art and Christian Life

Bethany is introducing a new May Intensive course that will explore the spiritual nature of Modern and Contemporary works of visual art — some explicitly Christian, some not — found both in secular art galleries and in the church. The course will be taught by Dr. Joelle Hathaway, assistant professor of theological studies. May Intensive courses run May 17-28, 2021.

Hathaway, who earned her Th.D. from Duke Divinity School, has varied scholarly interests including the arts, theology of place, iconology, and the history of worship. Here is a description of the course:

Christian Themes in the Gallery, Contemporary Images in the Church May Intensive

It is nearly impossible in our culture to get away from images. It is not a question of images or no images; it is a question of which images: which images form or deform the Christian imagination? Which Christian images inform the imagination of artists? Which images are appropriate for a missional church? During the first week we will consider how Christian themes, models, and spiritualties get remixed and deployed by modern and contemporary artists like Georges Rouault, Vincent van Gogh, and Andy Warhol. The second week of this course will establish a theological grammar and context for Christian discussions of contemporary art in relation to the work of justice, global arts, worship, and the mission of the church more broadly. Throughout the class we will consider examples of works of visual art – some explicitly Christian, some not – that have been commissioned by or exhibited in Christian worship spaces and galleries.

“What most excites me about this course is being able to create space for students to consider the relationship between the visual arts and Christian life – spiritually, historically, and globally,” says Hathaway. “Art in the Christian tradition is exceptionally rich and did not cease with the rise of Modern and Contemporary art. Christian artistic practice continues to evolve around the globe, as well as influencing and being influenced by art that we typically consider ‘secular.'”

Bethany alumni can get more information about taking a Bethany course for free here. Information about all of Bethany’s academic programs is here.

Image credit: “Devotion” (2016) by Louis Thompson, installed in Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury UK.