In a 2004 cover story in Spin magazine, U2 frontman Bono (note: I’m a huge U2 fan) says something profound:
“The job of art is to chase away ugliness.”
(You can read the article here). It seems to me that such a view certainly comports with Scripture.
God is a creative God and one who loves beauty – He didn’t have to make the sky turn glorious hues of orange and purple when the sun sets, for example. His creation was good. By contrast, sin brings ugliness – none worse than the ugliness inside the human heart.
The goal of good art should be, as Bono says, to chase away ugliness, to show us beauty. There is a transcendent quality to art that does this, something that ought to remind us that True Beauty exists, and that ugliness will ultimately vanish in Christ’s kingdom.
Of course, many in the arts celebrate ugliness. Think of the compositions of John Cage, think of infamous art exhibits that draw publicity by shocking ugliness. A poll of 500 influential arts figures, released in 2004, declared that the most influential work of modern art is Marchel Duchamp’s “Urinal.” And yes, it is a white porcelain urinal. This is what the cultural elites of our day think is good art.
I guess we might agree that it is influential, and certainly says something about the culture that produced and celebrates it. “Ugly” art attempts to subvert (or “deconstruct”) the norm, what most of us would consider beauty. The purported aim is usually to “push the envelope,” which they would have us believe is a high calling of art. Yet these things are subversive and destructive.
True Beauty exists, and it ought to be the goal of art to celebrate it and draw us to it, to remind us of the beauty of our Creator. The Church should celebrate such art and this high calling.