A Theology of Art in the Public Square with Matt Clark

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Show Notes

On this episode of Nuance, Case interviews local artist and printmaker, Matt Clark. Together they discuss the importance of art in the public square and the significance of art in faith practices such as Lectio Visua. Matt shares his expertise in printmaking and they review two prints Matt has worked on recently. Matt emphasizes the importance of craftsmanship and the pursuit of excellence in art. They also explore the role of art in worship and the potential for artists to reclaim their purpose in the Christian community.

Episode Resources:
www.stlukesattic.com
Instagram: @stlukesattic
Rembrandt’s The Jewish Bride: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jewish_Bride
Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard: https://www.amazon.com/dp/194110603X

Prints discussed on the show:
Partially Finished Block of Alligator in the Swamp: https://www.instagram.com/reel/C7PXp70Of3z/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link&igsh=MzRlODBiNWFlZA%3D%3D
The Evil Pharisee Antichrist: https://www.instagram.com/p/CzJ4YoAOvyu/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link&igsh=MzRlODBiNWFlZA%3D%3D

Nuance is a podcast of The Collaborative where we wrestle together about living our Christian faith in the public square. Nuance invites Christians to pursue the cultural and economic renewal by living out faith through work every facet of public life, including work, political engagement, the arts, philanthropy, and more.

Each episode, Dr. Case Thorp hosts conversations with Christian thinkers and leaders at the forefront of some of today’s most pressing issues around living a public faith.

Our hope is that Nuance will equip our viewers with knowledge and wisdom to engage our co-workers, neighbors, and the public square in a way that reflects the beauty and grace of the Gospel.

Learn more about The Collaborative:
Website: https://collaborativeorlando.com/  
Get to know Case: https://collaborativeorlando.com/team/

Episode Transcript

Case Thorp 

Okay, so wherever you are, close your eyes and picture this. Now, if you’re driving or exercising, maybe not, but in your mind’s eye, imagine the Egyptian obelisk that stands in the middle of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. You know, they actually built the Basilica. They had to move that obelisk like 30 feet. It was not easy. There’s a YouTube video on it. Now, I’m sure many of you have been in Times Square.

Just about where the naked cowboy plays the guitar at the bottom of the TKTS bleachers, there’s another statue. It’s a Francis Duffy. It kind of seems out of place in such a very different environment with all the screens, but Duffy was a soldier, a Catholic priest and a military chaplain. And I think, wow, doesn’t that stand out? Even in communist oppressive Kim Il -sung square in Pyongyang, North Korea. That’s pretty good there, wasn’t it? In North Korea, you know, where we see those massive parades on TV and the thousands of people dancing in sync, here’s a statue of Chollima, the unstoppable Korean Pegasus. And friends, I bring up these things because art adorns every public square. And it should, whether it’s in sculpture or the architecture around a public square.

It’s just a part of our lives. And I would argue we need more of it. Downtown Orlando actually has been pushing hard in the public art direction in the last 10 years and it’s really starting to pay off. Well, today on Nuance, we are with another artist, a friend of mine and a deep man of God. And so Matt Clark, thank you for being here today.

Matt Clark 

Thank you for having me.

Case Thorp 

Yeah, Matt is just the bomb. And so I’m really looking forward to this conversation, because as we’ve hit politics and education and medicine, art is a key part of the public square and something Christ followers need to think well about. Well, that’s what we’re all about here on nuance, being faithful in the public square. My name is Case Thorp, and I’m so glad to have you remind you, please like, subscribe and share whether you’re listening on podcasts or watching on YouTube getting this through social media, please share. It really helps us grow our audience. Well, Matt is joining us from the Geneva School. So you may hear some class bells or students in the background. Love that. There he teaches upper school studio art and also central Florida natural history. Matt’s got a strong interest in 2D art. So not necessarily sculpture, but 2D art, primarily in drawing, watercolor, and printmaking. And you know, Matt, in a minute, I’m gonna argue that printmaking is really a 3D art, but you know, what would you say?

Matt Clark

Okay, I would say no, but I’m willing to hear the argument about it.

Case Thorp 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. Well, I think I’m the expert on all things, right? He could be found working furiously on his artists books. He does these wonderful journals of sorts with special paper and fills them with his art. Now, Matt has a BFA in drawing and painting from the University of Central Florida and an MFA in printmaking from the University of Florida. You can go to stlukesattic.com or even on Instagram St. Luke’s Attic to see his work. In addition to all this, he and his wife have seven children. Dude. like that just exhausts me saying it. Seven children. I love my three, but okay. You’re down to six in the house. Come on, come on.

Matt Clark

Yeah, I got one of them married off, so the burden is lessened.

Case Thorp 

And he’s got a mini farm with chickens and tell us all that you have on your farm.

Matt Clark 

Well, right now I’m loaded with chickens. We just got bees a week or two ago and I have no idea what to do with those. They seem to be taking care of themselves. We got dogs and the kids have got various snakes and turtles and lizards and things, always at home. Yeah.

Case Thorp 

Yeah. Well, you seem like a lover of animals. I am not. You know, I love dogs and one’s enough. We have three. We do have nine chickens. Yeah. We just got two ducks. We got ducklings for Easter. We have two parakeets that are minions of Satan. I’ve always told anyone especially the young adults that might house it for us, that if I return and the minions of Satan, I mean parakeets, are gone, you, and I’m not implicated, I’ll buy you dinner and Hillstone wine included.

Matt Clark 

I get it, I feel that way about dogs.

Case Thorp 

Now are you the farmer who maintains all the?

Matt Clark 

I do. I do almost all the livestock stuff. We used to have ducks and turkeys and goats as well, but, we’ve divested a little bit. I do. I need some kind of buffer zone, you know, of time. I can’t spend all of my time working and making art work and taking care of the livestock and all of. Yeah.

Case Thorp 

I know you can actually make a living, right? Well, my wife is the farmer and I love that she loves it. But I’ve got a rule. I don’t touch fowl. Number one, whether they’re minions of Satan or chickens or ducks, I don’t touch them. And number two, you can’t make fun of me for it. So those are the two rules and everybody’s pretty good.

Matt Clark 

Your chickens are layer chickens and you don’t do meat birds at all. You don’t process them for the freezer.

Case Thorp 

No, but that wouldn’t bother me if we did. Yeah. Well, Jody touches him. I mean me to make to chop them up for me.

Matt Clark

Well, you got to touch them if you’re going to. That’s a very hands-on process there.

Case Thorp 

Right. Well, what’s so interesting to me is since we’ve had chickens, I have learned so many colloquial phrases or idioms that are in our culture. So like flew the coop. I get it now. Peking order. I get it now. Ring their neck. Right. Like my mother has said for decades, I’m going to ring your neck. And I just took it for what it’s worth. I didn’t know it meant grab the chicken by the head and ring it around.

Matt Clark

Yes. There are dozens and dozens, yes.

Case Thorp 

You know, not that we’ve ever done that for all of you PETA folks out there. Well, Matt, thank you. I really appreciate you being here. What about your bio or your life did I miss that you’d like to share?

Matt Clark 

Yeah, yeah, you nailed it. I’m not that interesting of a guy. I made a big drawing book a year or so ago, and just the process that I used to make it, some of the drawings came out really, really unexpected. And I told my wife, I said, you know, my imagination isn’t this good. Where did these come from? And it was really working through a process that the drawings sort of came out. It’s not a randomization sort of process, but there’s a couple of things that I do to help images come along that kind of take it out of my hands a little bit. I don’t want drawings that look contrived too much. I would like some little bit of outside. I don’t want to use the word random, but I can’t think of a better one right now.

Case Thorp 

Surprises. Happy little clouds.

Matt Clark (08:00.238)

Surprises. I like surprises because my imagination just can’t think of these things.

Case Thorp 

Yeah, yeah. Well, not to insult your artistic mastery, but in research for this podcast, I came across a quote from Bob Ross. You know, Bob Ross, the PBS painter with the big curly hair. He’s actually from Florida. Did you know that? He’s actually, I think, from central Florida. My son did a report once, but…I came across Bob Ross saying, we don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents. Happy little accidents. Yeah. Well, I’m just, as I think people know that know me, I’m just fascinated with artists and I love the art and I engage it in a way and ways that I wasn’t taught. And so the more I learn and the more I engage art, I’m still growing in that. So to you, like what is an artist?

Matt Clark

Yeah. I think that’s true.

Case Thorp 

What is an artist and where are you one?

Matt Clark 

Well, number one, I’m not good at anything else. I couldn’t imagine being, I’m not that good at anything else. How about that? I’m not that good at anything else. I couldn’t imagine really doing anything else. At various points in my life, people have said, hey, why don’t you maybe don’t spend so much time on the prints or on the drawings, concentrate more on this thing. And I just, I couldn’t imagine.

Case Thorp 

Come on. You’re a farmer. You’re a teacher.

Matt Clark 

Just cutting that part out of my life. I suppose it’d be, it’s like, I imagine Tom Brady feels this way when he knows it’s time to hang up football. You’re done. You’ve done all you can do, but he’s like, this is it. This is it for me. What am I going to do when I hang this up? So I am that. I think on a, why are there such a thing as artists? I think that we make things because God makes things and we imitate God.

We’re gonna do it well, we’re gonna do it poorly, but we’re going to do it. And there have been artists ever since there’ve been people. Maybe what we think of as art wouldn’t be what everyone everywhere has always thought. I don’t think we would define art the same way now that maybe a thousand, 2000 years ago, these people making these great Greek Hellenistic sculptures, they wouldn’t really thought of it as art so much as this is functional, it sits in a temple, it’s for use, or these medieval painters, they’re not thinking of, they’re expressing some great artistic sentiment. They’re making something that’s more craftsman, right? I think the Greek word is technē. They’re a technician, they’re making something. But we categorize it as art. And you can go into caves and do archaeology in caves.

Case Thorp 

More craftsman. Yeah.

Matt Clark 

What’s the difference between animals living in caves and people living in caves? The people leave artwork, the animals don’t. So the very, very earliest people were making artwork. That’s one of the first things they did. And I don’t think life was easy back then. And it’s not like they had a surplus of downtime and they were bored and it was time to break out the macaroni and glitter. They had important things to do. They had to find food. They had to not die. You know, they had to not be killed, but they made paintings.

And they made sculptures, they carved bone, they carved stone, and they did all of these things. So, evidently, it’s an important thing, you know, all the way down to the core of what it is to be a human being.

Case Thorp 

I imagine you’re familiar with Abraham Kuyper by virtue of Geneva school and the reform circles. Well, for our listeners, Abraham Kuyper was a pastor in the late 1800s in Netherlands. His platform wasn’t big enough for his dreams and visions, so he went into politics, eventually becoming prime minister. But we at The Collaborative are based upon a Kuyperian understanding of humanity and the world, particularly the various spheres. And so those basic ways in which people come together are family, marketplace, government, and the arts. And you’ve got your core family unit. Then I’m going to make some corn and I realize you’ve got some deer. Hey, let’s exchange. Well, then you have a marketplace and then you mess me over and cheat me. And now I’m going to kill you. No, no, wait, wait. Somebody intervenes. Let’s solve this and get some justice. They have government.

And then you’ve got this basic, like you say, expression of art that’s there from the start. And a lot of times when I present this, people kind of raise an eyebrow art, art as a basic foundational expression of humanity. But it really is. It really is. And when somebody raises an eyebrow, I say, well, just imagine what if the world didn’t have art or creative expression?

Your thoughts on that.

Matt Clark 

Yeah. Well, yeah. What if it didn’t? We’d be robots, I guess. It would be machines. Yeah, art, it does something that other things don’t do. And when I say art, I mean, big broad tent here. I’m talking about literature, music, visual arts. We even, we define them, you know, visual arts, performing arts, you know, we have different categories. So, you know, you can read a story, you can read a Dostoevsky novel, what, a million times, and it’s still going to keep speaking to you in different ways. You can go back to Rembrandt’s Jewish Bride and look at that painting for hours. You can just keep looking at it. It’s going to keep giving to you. It’s going to keep revealing itself to you more and more.

It’s not like, there’s some kinds of art that are pretty facile. I remember being in college and there was a show at the gallery in college and it was a landscape show, a show of landscapes. And some of the paintings were very beautiful and I liked them very much. And I remember one of them was a bunch of squares of canvas with dirt and rocks and hay glued onto the canvas. And my professor looked at it for a minute and goes, I get it.

The canvas is the landscape and the landscape is the canvas. And he said, this kind of stuff, once you get the joke, is boring as crap. And you get the joke, you walk away and never look at it again. That kind of stuff is really just kind of didactic. It’s not art, really. There’s nothing there. You’re just trying to convey a message. OK, you’ve conveyed the message. It’s like advertising or the, you know, the DVD player instructions that come along that you never read. You don’t keep coming back to that again and again. So art somehow does something non -verbally. It’s a kind of wisdom or knowledge or experience that’s above, beyond, under, around words. It’s a different thing, a different way of knowing.

Case Thorp 

So what do, how, you say you don’t keep coming back to it. What’s the difference in art and a statement of that landscape piece? Why do you keep coming back to art?

Matt Clark 

Because the…this statement, I think it’s verbal, it’s filled with propositions, and you can affirm them or deny them or understand them. But I think the art is…

Well, it’s not verbal. It’s not that it’s not irrational. It’s not strictly rational, though. It’s like if you see a waterfall. A waterfall is not rational. It’s not irrational, but it’s a waterfall is what it is. And you can look at that and take all kinds of things from it. And I think artwork does the same thing.

Case Thorp 

Well, you are featured in a newly released book and it’s called Revealed, a storybook Bible for grownups. And if you’re watching online, you can see the front cover of the book. If you’re listening, we will have a link to this beautiful book in our show notes. And I mean, it’s just, it’s large. It feels so good in the hands. It lays out so well when you open it.

Matt Clark 

Yes.

Case Thorp

And Ned Bustard, am I saying that correctly? Bustard is the editor and author in many ways. He says in his opening essay, art bears witness to the faith and makes it more accessible. Art bears witness to the faith and makes it, faith that is, more accessible. And that’s what I hear you saying when you say that you return again, again to art because it makes our faith more accessible.

Matt Clark 

Yeah, I think so. You can engage with it. I can engage with art from other cultures that I don’t speak the language. I don’t know what’s being said, but I can look at the pictures. I can understand that. My children, before they were able to read, they look at the pictures, right? And they make up a story to go along with it. And a lot of times, it’s pretty close to what the written word is. Or conversely, I had my daughter was looking at pictures of different people and one of the, she says, daddy, can, I’ll make up a name. She said, can Susan be a boy’s name? And I said, no, Susan is not a boy’s name. And she said, well, look at this picture. And she looked at it. I saw this picture and sure enough, Susan looked very masculine, you know, in these pictures. And so for her as an eight year old, she’s,

She’s looking at the pictures and trying to make sense first of the picture, and then the written word comes along beside it, and she’s saying, does the written word and the picture make sense together? So for her, she understood it first as a picture and then as written words. And when they didn’t seem to line up, it caused confusion.

Case Thorp 

Yeah, yeah. And when we’re talking here of art making faith more accessible, we don’t just mean Christian art, but even art that reflects other themes or objects of nature and society, you would agree. And a great deal of your art isn’t necessarily Christian explicitly in terms of Christian images or moments in the Bible.

Matt Clark

Yeah, sure.

Case Thorp 

Well, and that’s a, you know, we talk a lot about common grace on our podcast, just this idea that God’s good gifts come in all ways, in all sorts of ways, not just necessarily through those things ordained by the church or that emanate from scripture. And so, I find great meaning in all sorts of art. Are you familiar with Lectio Visua?

What about Lectio Divina? So Lectio Divina is the way in which a scriptural passage can be read repeatedly with times of silence in between. And I often lead a group through this and we have a prayerful attitude and we are praying as we hear this scripture. And I encourage folks, hey, think about something in this passage that strikes your heart or makes you wonder and then just listen in that silence for what God has to say. Well, Lectio Visua is a similar technique where a piece of art is deeply, deeply meditated upon. And from it, what are the themes that relate to our sinfulness, God’s grace and mercy, His call into the world? It’s wonderful. Well, tell us a bit about your particular expertise in printmaking.

And am I saying that correctly, that printmaking is your focus?

Matt Clark 

Yeah, printmaking is, I really love printmaking. I remember in college there was a debate between painters and printmakers and who had the greater art. And someone just said, well, which one did you do first? Children paint, but printmaking is a little bit further. It’s more advanced. It’s further down the line. It’s the more refined form of artwork, I think, in a way. No, no, my goodness, no. Although we do fingerprint, but that’s for criminals, mostly. So printmaking is just any way of making an image, usually in multiples. You can make an addition of a 5, 100, 1,000, 10,000, however many images.

And there’s usually, there’s some kind of matrix. There are things that are called monoprints where you print and you only get one or monotype, you only get one image from that print. But that’s really kind of a niche understanding of what printmaking is. Printmaking generally comes in relief printmaking, which is what I love the most. And that’s woodcuts and lino cuts and wood engravings where you have a matrix, like let’s say a block of wood, and you carve a design in it. And you ink the surface of that block, like a stamp, just like a stamp. Press the paper on it and peel it off, and you’ve got your print. And you could print, depending on how careful you are with it, you could get hundreds, if not thousands, of copies of that print. There’s intaglio, which means in the line, and that’s etchings and engravings where you do.

take a plate, generally a copper or zinc plate, sometimes a steel plate, and you put ink on that plate and wipe the surface clean. And the ink only exists down in the recesses of the lines in there. And then you put paper on that and run it through a press. And at great pressure, it presses the paper down into those lines. And when you peel the paper off, it takes the ink out of the lines. The most common form of intaglio printmaking is our paper currency.

If you get a fresh, crisp $10 bill, you can generally feel the ink is raised off the paper because it’s pulled off of plates, engraved plates, steel plates.

Case Thorp

And those plates are kept very secure because it’d be easy to counterfeit.

Matt Clark 

Very, very secure. Yes. Yeah. None of my etchings are kept very secure. They’re in a drawer. And there’s stencils, and that’s screen printing. Everybody’s got t -shirts that have screen prints on them. And then there’s a planographic, which is lithographs. And that is complicated. It’s almost like chemistry. It works on the principle that oil and water don’t mix. You’ve got a wet stone with oily, greasy drawings on it. And you run your oil -based ink on top of that. It sticks only to the greasy parts, not the watery parts. You run your paper through a press and boom, you’ve got your print. So that’s four basic. There are different kinds of printmaking besides that, but that’s the four big ones. And yeah.

Case Thorp

Now as you describe this, I’m thinking, surely newspapers are not still done with print type. No.

Matt Clark 

No, no, they were done with a process called linotype all the way up until the 1970s. And they had big machines that would essentially cast the print, cast the type instantaneously almost on big drums. And they were printed like that, but we don’t. Yeah, I think it was the 70s or the very early 80s they stopped. The last one of those went out of business.

Case Thorp 

Now you have a preferred surface that you like to carve, right? And that’s, is that Linotype?

Matt Clark 

Linolium, it’s lino, it’s linoleum. It’s the stuff we used to put on our floors, yeah.

Case Thorp 

Yeah, I’ve seen on your Instagram page and I encourage others to go look, you’ve got videos that show you, do you call it carving?

Matt Clark 

Yeah, I carve it. Yes. A lot of people like the blocks more than the prints. The blocks are just a means to an end for me.

Case Thorp 

But to me, that’s why I would argue your work is elevated above painting simply because you have to carve it backwards in order for the print then to be a mirror image that comes out recognizable. And I just, I think your brain must just do flips to figure that out.

Matt Clark

Yes, you do. So some, yes, some are harder than others. Some it doesn’t matter. If I’m drawing a fish, you know, does it face the left or the right? You know, who cares? But I remember doing one print called The Two Adams, and it was a creation of Adam and Eve on the left side and a crucifixion on the right side. And it’s very important in visual arts when Jesus’s side is pierced.

Does the blood and water have to come out of his right side? Because the left side is the sinister side. And traditionally in painting, you’ll have synagogue on the left, the unbelieving Jews on the left, and then Mary and sometimes John on the right. So the blood and water.

Case Thorp

And for folks to really pick up, you’re talking about the grand tradition of Christian art, that there are standards and patterns that you’re seeking to replicate.

Matt Clark

Yes, that’s correct. So the blood and water have to come out on the right side. So I’m doing this diptych of Adam and Eve on one side, Jesus on the other, and two images side by side. And so I’m thinking, all right, everything’s got to be reversed. So Jesus is facing me. So his right side is my left side. But if I flip it over, then.

I’ve got to draw, you know, so I just, I do all of these gymnastics and what I usually end up doing is drawing it and then just looking at it in a mirror. Does it all come out?

Case Thorp 

Now, have you ever spent so much time carving a block and then go, oops. Yeah. Yeah. Well, what I’d like to do now is share a visual, share your work. If you’re with us on YouTube, you’ll get to see this. Matt, most of our listeners actually are on podcasts. And so we’re going to try to describe things for those of you who are listening so that you can get a sense of what we’re experiencing here.

Matt Clark 

Yeah, yes. Yes.

Case Thorp 

We’re going to first do a nature piece that I believe you’re still working on.

Matt Clark 

I am still working on that, yes.

Case Thorp

And so describe this for us.

Matt Clark 

It’s a pond scene. And I started this off as just, I thought maybe I’ll have a big alligator floating in space. And I said, no, no, alligators like to sit. They like to lay. So I said, well, I’ll do a little bit of a pond scene and then, well, there are other animals and at ponds, there are birds. And so I just, I really started to have fun. I thought, how many things can I jam into this thing? It’s a, it’s an alligator who’s facing the lower left corner.

He’s sitting on a bed of dollarweed and globe sedge. And there’s an apple snail under his chin and some raccoon footprints beneath there. His chin is in the dickweed. Yeah. See there? There’s more stuff to see. There’s pigeon plants in the front corner, dragonflies and damselflies. There’s some snowy egrets and a wren in a button bush. There’s a chicken turtle in the back, along with some Spanish needle and some spadardoc and some alligator flag. There’s a snake swimming in the water too. So I just, this one I just, I thought was, there’s a snake. There is. Is between the two birds, between the birds in the water, right above the alligator’s head.

Case Thorp 

I missed this. Where’s the snake? I don’t see it. yes, yes, yes. It’s in the Wren’s claw there. Okay.

Matt Clark 

Yeah. huh. Cool. So this, this was fun for me because I do teach natural history, central Florida natural history. So I just thought, you know, what grows around a pond and how many recognizable elements can I put into this? Can you pick out the Spanish needle? Can you pick out the, and I know you can do it because some of my seventh grade students were looking at the parent print and they said, is that globe sedge? Is that Spanish needle? So 14 year olds can pick it out. So.

Case Thorp 

Well, for folks that are listening to realize, Matt’s prints are jammed packed with imagery and detail. And that’s what I appreciate because it stimulates the mind and it makes you work for sure. And your knowledge of the natural environment is profound.

Not only in the detail of animals, the alligator skin on this is just tremendous, but then also the flora and fauna. You know your plants.

Matt Clark

I’m working on it for sure. I like this. There’s the idea of the horror vacuum. I write nature abhors of a vacuum. And one of the, have you ever seen, it’s an old film, powers of 10, where it’s, I think it starts people having a picnic and then it goes out 10 meters, then a hundred meters, then a thousand meters. And essentially it goes all the way out of our solar system, just in powers of 10. And there’s another one, it’s a reverse powers of 10. It starts again at like, normal eyeball level and then it zooms in 10 times and then 10 times more and then 10 times and you just keep going and there’s always more underneath. It’s just you know I’ll have students sit outside and generally depending on how old they are 10 minutes is usually about all they can take and I’ll say you just draw what you see and most of them are done in about 15 seconds and I say yeah but you still got another four minutes and 45 seconds what else can you see?

Case Thorp 

Wow. Thank you.

Matt Clark

And by the end of the five minutes or the 10 minutes, they realize that they couldn’t possibly begin to put everything in there in only 10 minutes. There’s just so much going on that they just, you just kind of weed it out. You know, you can’t really see all of the things your eyes see at any given time. There’s just too much to be seen. So I really have fun with just loading all of that stuff in there.

Case Thorp

And I think the same thing with scripture and the Lectio Divina exercise. There’s so much depth and I know for the rest of my life, I’ll never exhaust the teachings of scripture. Now, why are the animals red?

Matt Clark 

So linoleum comes in gray, and if you cut into it, it’s still gray, and it’s very difficult to see what you’ve cut. So after I do the drawing in pencil, then I draw it again with some kind of permanent marker. And then I roll the whole thing up in red ink. The red is the most transparent ink, so I can still see all of my line work there. And then all I have to do is carve away all the red.

And when all the red is carved away, I know that it’s time to print. So the red, it’s just to provide color contrast between the color of my linoleum and the surface.

Case Thorp 

Okay. Is this the print or linoleum block? yes, yes. Okay.

Matt Clark 

That’s the block.

I haven’t printed it yet. I think so since I sent you that picture, I’ve carved out the birds, the snake and the turtle. All that’s left is the alligator now. So I probably will finish that this week, maybe early next week.

Case Thorp 

By carving them out, you mean more detail on the birds? Because they’re already carved out.

Matt Clark 

They’re not carved out. They are red. I have to take away the red. Well.

Case Thorp 

I got it, I got it, I got it. But the black we see on the red is paint or pencil? Pen, marker, okay, okay.

Matt Clark 

Yes, marker. Yeah, I think I have here I Have my gouge I can I can show you the size gouge that I use yeah This is what I use so It’s a tool it’s a V gouge and it is one one millimeter the V gouge and so I the block is 12 by 16, 12 by 16 inches and my gouge is one millimeter. So I carved the whole thing out, almost the entire thing with this millimeter gouge.

Case Thorp 

Got it. Got it. Well, let’s do one more piece. And again, for those of you listening, I really encourage you to look at the YouTube or go and take in these pictures. We’ll put the links in the show notes to all of these pictures. So this is a religious piece and I suspect this is the high priest, correct?

Matt Clark 

All right, so this was for Revealed. And it’s revealed right.

Case Thorp 

Revealed the book that has just come out, the Bible. I love this storybook Bible for grownups, right? You’ve got so many children’s, but here’s one. And let me tell you, some of the imagery is, yeah, it’s for grownups.

Matt Clark 

Yeah, yeah, there’s a lot of crazy stories. So I was asked to make this drawing of a Pharisee slash Antichrist slash high priest. And Ned, Ned Bustard, who you referenced earlier, he said, wouldn’t it be cool if his beard was kind of like a Medusa beard and was full of serpents? And so that’s what I have. I did a like a Pharisee with serpents in his beard. And I looked up different symbols, you know, what might have, you know, I don’t know what, I didn’t know what to put there, but he, I had Antichrist rolling around and I said, well, there’s gotta be like a devil symbol. And so that one on his forehead is some satanic, it’s like an anti -Eucharist kind of symbol. I guess that’s a chalice there with an X through it and different things.

But it’s a real symbol and it looks quasi -religious. I guess it is religious, but it’s just satanic. So he’s on Satan’s forehead there. And it’s a shame. I really like this print. I think it turned out well. The drawing I thought was good. I think that the light and shadow was good. The textures were good. But it’s a print of like Antichrist. I’m not going to sell it. I’m not going to say, hey, would you like a framed picture of Antichrist?

Case Thorp 

Yeah. Well, for those listening, this is a profile of a man looking off to the left and the man actually resembles who were the miners in Lord of the Rings.

Matt Clark

Yeah, like the dwarves, yeah. Big blocky nose, thick beard, yeah.

Case Thorp 

Yes, yes, the dwarves. And he’s got a head covering that was typical of the high priest back in Jesus’ time and a long bushy beard. And it’s out of the hairs of the beard that the serpents emerge. And there’s goodness. Six, seven different serpents and their bodies are all intertwined with the beard. It’s just it’s it’s creepy. It gives you the willies.

Matt Clark

Yes, good. Awesome. That’s what I was talking about.

Case Thorp 

Yeah, that’s good. That’s what you want. Give me the willies. Yeah, yeah. Well, Matt, I mean, what do most people, especially Christ followers, not understand or get about artists?

Matt Clark

Artists have shot themselves in the foot. We used to be integrated and have a place. It’s a long history, and I’m going to paint with a very broad brush. Pardon the pun.

Case Thorp 

Curve with a very large V -shaped tool.

Matt Clark

Yeah, yes. I’m going to way oversimplify things, but artists used to have a job. We illustrated books, Bibles, prayer books, whatever. We made paintings for churches, chapels, courts, you know, whatever, there was a job to be done. There’s in the 17th century, the thing called the middle class was kind of invented. You had the merchant class, especially reform folks like this very much like those Dutch still lifes. And they like Rembrandt and guys like him. And they should, he’s fantastic.

But you get a Dutch middle -class who’s got a lot of money to burn and they want opulent things, but they’re also reformed, so they can’t really be opulent, you know, just to have stuff for the sake of stuff. So it’s all got to teach something. So you get these tradition of this Dutch still life that’s, you know, moralizing in still life. You know, you get skulls and tipped over glasses, you know, all of this wealth is fleeting, you know, keep that in mind. But then you have artists that kind of split. They’ve got to satisfy middle class, upper middle class clientele. Some of them are still painting for the church, but you’ve got a Protestant church now that is okay with pictures, kind of, but not a lot. So what do artists do? Who knows? Eventually you get to the 19th century where there’s this, the idea of the classicists who are, painting their paintings for moral instruction, like David and Ong and people like that. 

They’re painting big historical pieces for the good of the people so they can be educated on classical themes. You have romantics who are essentially painting their passions. And then you get this thing, the camera can just take pictures now. Now what on earth is a painter to do when you have a machine that can essentially do what you’ve spent your entire life doing? So artists just become something else completely. They kind of take the romantic idea of what is an artist, you know, it’s kind of like a prophet or some kind of a secular aesthetic prophet. And so they really kind of run with that. And they say, well, if painting is no longer about making pictures because cameras can do that, what are we supposed to do? So in the late 19th century, all of a sudden they quote, rediscover the picture plane. 

Essentially, they come up with the idea that this is not really a window into, the paintings are not windows into nature, they’re just a square of canvas. So what can we do with colors and shapes and forms? And it just kind of falls apart in the 20th century. And you got some interesting things going on in the 20th century, you get a lot of junk going on in the 20th century. Artists just try to work in, what are they doing? What are we doing?

Case Thorp 

I mean, if I could pause you right there, I mean, I have, I mean, I get your sense of not a great appreciation for what dada and abstractionism and modernism. When you say things kind of fell apart, they fell apart from what?

Matt Clark

From having an understanding of what it is that you’re doing. So in society or just as an artist, you know, you could be like a, like an Emily Dickinson poet, write all your poems and never have the sense that anyone is ever going to read them and you’re just okay with that. So you could be an artist and have the idea that no one’s ever gonna see my pictures, that’s fine, I still know what I’m doing even without an audience. But now, what does an artist do? Before, there was the idea of nature is your teacher. You get all of these quotes from artists from Albert Durer, Da Vinci, Michelangelo. All of them would say, nature is your teacher. Nature is the master. You’re always going back to nature. How can I imitate nature better?

How can I, we would say, how can we imitate creation better? If God made all of these things, how can I imitate God better? What’s the way to do that? But again, I think it’s cameras. I think when cameras came along, they’re like, what’s the point in trying to imitate nature? The machine can imitate it better than I can. So nature’s no longer my teacher. What’s my teacher? So they’ve been, it fell apart. They didn’t have a teacher anymore or a guide. And now they’re just trying to figure out, well,

You know, is it just inside of me? Am I just trying to, am I full of self -expression? I mean, the idea of self -expression was never a thing. It’s a very modern idea that artists are going to express themselves. That’s just not a thing. That wouldn’t be a thing. Right, right, right. That just wouldn’t be a thing. So I think that’s what I mean when I say things just kind of fell apart. And we’ve been sort of wandering around, becoming less and less relevant.

Case Thorp 

Yeah, yeah. Well, radical theistic individualism.

Matt Clark

All the time. When an artist has a purpose to serve, you are there to facilitate worship in a church, you know what you’re doing. You’ve got a goal to work towards. Or if you’re illustrating a Bible or a text or something, you’ve got a goal. But now there’s no goal. It’s just all up to you. What do you want to do? And that’s a lot to try to figure out.

Case Thorp 

Where do you see Christ followers reclaiming or repurposing the role of art? And I don’t mean making just art that has Christian themes to it, but do you have hope?

Matt Clark 

I think there’s some very good ones. I think…I… Do I have hope? It’s such a fraught world right now. If you’re going to be an artist, chances are you are not making it just solely as an artist. You’re doing something else. And this is a vocation for you that you just keep doing it on top of everything else. You’re bivocational, I guess.

The internet has been a tremendous evil, but a tremendous good too. It’s sort of democratized the art world. There are no gatekeepers of taste anymore. If you’re savvy enough in your marketing, you can, I mean, I’m nobody and a lot of people know my artwork that I’ve never met. Now, thousands of people know it that I’ve never met. That would have not have been possible before the internet.

So I’m hopeful in that sense that people can get their stuff out even if they don’t impress the tastemakers. But is there a place for it to go? I think there’s a big distrust of artists. And like I said, I think that’s a little bit of self -inflicted on artist’s part. They tend to be kind of flaky. Yeah, kind of flaky sometimes.

I think there’s a distrust, at least in the Protestant church, about what is an artist supposed to do? Like, what, we like these people, they do some interesting things, but how can it, I don’t want to say use it because that seems very pragmatic, but how can we incorporate this into the life, into the Christian life? I think there’s a lot of openness to it. I mean, what we’re doing right now is personal to that.

Case Thorp 

Yeah, well, and our focus here is discipling Christ -sinner professionals for their leadership and witness in the public square. And so that’s where I hope we would lean in and engage art. I try to incorporate that into my programs. Let me close by giving you a quote from a painter that is well known, and I know you probably know him personally, but Mako Fujimura.

And he says in one of his books, quote, God cannot be known by talking about God or debating God’s existence. Even if we quote, win the debate, God cannot be known by sitting in a classroom or even in a church taking in information about God. I’m not against these pragmatic activities, but God moves in our hearts to be experienced and then makes us all to be artists of the kingdom. God, the artist communicates to us first before God the lecturer.

Matt Clark 

Yeah, I can see that, especially when the apostle Paul tells us that what can be known of God is clearly seen, right? Just what’s been what’s been made in so far as God makes things. Yes, I agree with that. I don’t think that’s enough to pull us across the finish line, but it’s definitely required. You know, it’s the definite first step.

Case Thorp 

Romans 1, seen in nature.

Yeah. And by polish across the finish line, I imagine you mean to confess faith in Christ, moving from that common grace to specific or special grace. Well, this book revealed, which I want to encourage everybody to go purchase, it’s become a great devotional for me, where I read the scriptural elements and then the reflections on the art.

Matt Clark

Yes, yes.

Case Thorp

Well, Matt, I love asking folks this question, but where do you feel, wait, sorry, let me start over. Matt, where do you find God’s pleasure in your work?

Matt Clark 

I think in doing it well, the, you know, whatever you do, do it with all your might is under the Lord kind of a thing. I find it, it’s not so much, am I, am I drawing, you know, a beetle or am I drawing a Bible story? That’s almost besides the point. It’s in, in the execution, the craftsmanship of it. Like I, I, I do these, the best that I can. And I think that’s, I think that’s where it’s found. And I’m getting better. I’m getting older. I’m better now than I was 10 years ago, certainly 20 years ago. And I just, I plan to just keep getting better and better at it. Not, not in any kind of egotistical way, but just that this is, this is the interest God gave me. I’m not, I’m not a big believer in talent, but I am a believer in working and practicing. 

And so in doing this artwork and practicing and getting better, taking what little bit that I was given and developing it and culturing it and maturing it. I think that’s where I find that.

Case Thorp

And then spend some time meditating on the art, which accompanies each part of the biblical story. And I’ve now, I just, I take my pencil and I write straight in the book. That’s not intended, but I thought, well, I go get another journal and do these thoughts and reflections. I’m just going to write straight on these pages. And it’s really fantastic. Well, Matt, thank you so much. I appreciate you being here.

Matt Clark 

Great. Great.

Case Thorp

Let me encourage others to go to stlukesattic.com to learn more about his work. Instagram St. Luke’s Attic is a great place to get that. So Matt, thanks so much.

Matt Clark 

Thank you.

Case Thorp 

And when I thank you for joining us, remember to like and share. It really helps us to get the word out. Leave a review wherever you get your podcast. CollaborativeOrlando.com has all sorts of content and you can find us across the social media platforms. Don’t forget, we’ve got our nuance Formed for Faithfulness podcast, a weekly 10 minute devotional for the working Christian that follows the liturgical calendar. Want to thank our sponsor for today, the V3 family foundation. Don’t remember the great words of Bob Ross. We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents. I’m Case Thorp, and God’s blessing on you.