I was excited, several months ago, to find that Makoto Fujimura was beginning his own art institute. My friend, Wes Sumrall, and I had long discussed the desire we have to learn from Mako, and this institute provides the possibility. In the light of this excitement, I am going to do a basic review of the F.I.’s purpose and work, and then explain my delight in one of their newest creations.
The Institute has one main goal, and works that goal out in two specific ways. First, the Fujimura Institute organizes panel discussions and collaborative exhibitions. This is good in and of itself, but it sounds remarkably like IAM, an organization previously founded by Fujimura. In this sense, the Institute functions as an educational element of IAM itself. There is also a second, more specific goal to the Institute. It trains a select group of men and women to carry on the work of Nihonga, an ancient Japanese form of painting. This aspect of the Institute is fascinating to me in that there has been little desire, within the art community, to train artists in a particular method of art-making. Our culture prizes the idea of independent and self-made artisans who defy all traditional media and method. In response to the world-views that have created this cultural view of the artist, we find that the Institute’s main goal is to be ‘regenerative’, restoring to the art community what has been lost through “fractured, fragmented modern perspectives” by constructing a “whole view of the world” in collaboration and community.
If I wanted to critique anything about this endeavor, it is simply in that it holds to a narrowed view of what constitutes a “fractured, fragmented” perspective. Even if we take-for-granted that all or most modern perspectives are “fractured”, we cannot argue that only modern perspectives are fractured. What of the ancient religions that permeate today’s culture? Are Theravada Buddhism, Shaivism, Baalism, Kabbalism, Suni-Shiite-Sufi Islam considered holistic perspectives on reality? In this sense there is a kind of narrowing of vision in the main endeavor of the Institute. To heal a culture from fragmented perspectives, what is not needed is simply a community, but a community rooted in Christ—the Church. What a degenerate culture needs is the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.
However, I assume that Fujimura already understands this, as he is involved in his own local church. So, my critique is really more of a question: to what extent is this artist’s movement capable of being “regenerative”? First, we must necessarily understand the use of “regenerative” to be an analogy to the Bible’s use of regeneration. If we understand “regenerative” to be an analogy, then the Institute can be successful in its endeavors. A culture really can be renewed by a return to historic practices. In truth, many modern views have created a culture that disdains continuity with historic and beneficial traditions. I argue that a good step towards healing is taken when a community works together to maintain useful and beneficial traditions, and to discuss practices and thoughts. But, in no way does this mean that our culture can be regenerated, in the Biblical sense, by anything other than the Holy Spirit confirming what the Scriptures say about Christ.
To get in on the discussion, you should check out Fujimura’s newest book: