Feb. 22, 2020
Art professors Kurt Simonson (’00) and Jonathan Anderson (’00) are sharing pieces of their personal journeys through two different approaches in their new books. Simonson’s photobook, Northwoods Journals, was released in November 2015 and Anderson’s book, Modern Art and the Life of a Culture, is set to be released in June.
Northwoods Journals starts off with a photo of an opened letter lying on a brightly colored crochet blanket. The piece, “Not To Be Opened Until My Death,” is a work that speaks to the secrecy within many families, including Simonson’s. The book took 10 months of production and features 65 photographs shot in his home state of Minnesota over the course of 15 years.
“The project started as me just trying to figure out nostalgia from Minnesota; having grown up in Minnesota and living in California for so long I was dealing with that split trying to figure out what’s the disconnect that I feel,” said Simonson. “The project was my way of reconnecting and figuring out my place in the family story essentially.”
Northwoods Journals focuses on the ideas of family and communication, providing a visual exploration of the way Simonson’s family functions while speaking to the broader narratives of family dynamics and disconnection.
“We can’t really figure out our family narratives. We seem to think we should be able to have a clear understanding of our family, but we can’t,” said Simonson. “So I think this is just an invitation, in one specific way — through my family — to wrestle with the ideas of ‘how do we know each other’ and ‘how do we make sense of where we came from.’”
Modern Art and the Life of a Culture: The Religious Impulses of Modernism
Anderson’s book, co-authored by theologian William A. Dyrness, is an integration of both modern art history and theology. The book is both a play on and response to Dutch art historian and theologian Hans Rookmaaker’s book, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture. The groundbreaking work was a significant contribution to the world of art criticism with its ideas that modern art is religiously and theologically charged. Opposite of Anderson, Rookmaaker believed modern art was wrapped up in very nihilistic theologies and that this was a deeply problematic issue.
Anderson’s book is a reconsideration of modern art history, closely evaluating the religious contexts it grew from. It seeks to examine the theological concerns and problems the artists were wrestling with, not in opposition to religion, but rather as deeply involved in and formed by religious thought.
“We think there are a lot of modern artists who were deeply conflicted by religious thought and deeply formed by it,” said Anderson. “We try to tell that history and we think that paying attention to artists as spiritual beings and as theological thinkers and as people who were raised and located in religious societies is necessary for doing good art criticism spiritually.”
Anderson has always been intrigued by the relationship between modern art and religion. He long dreamt of writing a book that would contribute a more well-rounded understanding of how the two intersect in a world where art and culture are becoming increasingly secular.
“I hope it provides a model in some way for engaging religious and theological thought in a secular or post-secular setting and situation,” said Anderson. “Hopefully we provide a model that is helpful for people studying film, music, sociology or whatever else it might be on how theological thinking can find a home in these disciplines that might otherwise appear too secular.”
Both Anderson and Simonson did a 30 minute talk and presentation about their individual books at the 2016 Art Alumni Reunion on April 23. The two art professors have been teaching full time for the past 10 years and both have a Bachelor of Science in Studio Art from Biola and a Masters of Fine Arts from California State University Long Beach.
Northwoods Journals by Simonson can be purchased through Flash Powder Projects and Modern Art and the Life of a Culture: The Religious Impulses of Modernism is currently available for pre-order through InterVarsity Press.
Written by Daryn Daniels, iBiola intern. For more information, contact Jenna Loumagne, media relations specialist, at (562) 777-4061 or email@example.com.
media [dot] relations [at] biola [dot] edu