The Old Testament, the Torah, and the sayings of Mohammed all have have similar injunctions against making images. The Revised Standard Edition of the Bible, Exodus 20:4, says, " You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the water below." Even the Book of Mormon says this, (Mosiah 12:36).
Wait, what!!?? I am an artist! Creating pictures is what I do! My home is full of my paintings, of flowers, trees, even dragons! Yet it is full of joy and I do feel blessed by the presence of angels. What can the Prophets have meant? Why do so many scriptures forbid image making? Do they only refer to idols, or to all representational art?
What would life be like without representational art? No portraits, no statues of people or animals, no paintings of flowers. Paintings by Rembrant would have to go. No Monet, no Van Gough. No troll under the bridge in Freemont, Seattle. No Statue of Liberty. No family photographs. No stuffed animals even!
A huge piece of my world would not be there! What would fill it's place?
In the Arabic world, in the old testament world, words were highly valued. Poetry was the preferred art form. An yet, poetry depends not only on the sweetness of sound, but also on the images it makes in the mind. One makes images not only with line, color, and shape, but also with words and sound.
Do these commandments about making images refer to ANY images, or just to idols?
For me, creating art is a way of celebrating creation, whether it is the way seaweed gathers at the tide line in fall, or the uniqueness of a particular woman or man. Creating art is a way of honoring the creator. It is an act of worship, not for what I create, but for the Creator.
I wonder if the millennia old traditions of making images to worship made it hard for people to think of representational art having any other purpose?
What do you think?
How would our minds work differently if art was never representational? If visual art was patterns and abstracts only? Would we perceive the meaning of life differently? Give no meaning at all to art? Would the abundance of patterns encourage more mathematical thinking? Would the lack of images of people affect our ability to emphasize with others?