LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ned Bustard: On Beauty and Square Halo Books

Ned Bustard is the owner of an illustration and graphic design firm called World’s End Images (www.worldsendimages.com). He received his B.A. in art from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. He has done work for various clients ranging from the Publication Society of the Reformed Episcopal Church, White Horse Inn, and Young Life, to ICI Americas, Macy’s West and Armstrong World Industries. He was the art director for the late, great, alternative Christian music publication, Notebored Magazine. Much of his current work is for Veritas Press, for whom he has also written a number of books including Legends & Leagues or Mr Tardy Goes From Here to There, The Sailing Saint, Ella Sings Jazz, and a historic novel Squalls Before War: His Majesty’s Schooner Sultana. In his spare time, he is the creative director for Square Halo Books (www.squarehalobooks.com). He currently is living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with his wife, Leslie, and three daughters, Carey, Maggie and Ellie.

LeAnne: Let's talk about Square Halo Books. What is your mission?

Square Halo Books began nearly a decade ago in hopes of providing a platform for living saints who would handle biblical texts in their proper context—with full belief in the truthfulness of all things contained in Scripture—but who might not have the name recognition needed to attract a larger publisher or who might be speaking about orthodox ideas that fell outside of the interests of the mainstream religious book publishing companies. The End: A Readers’ Guide to Revelation (the first Square Halo book) was published in 1997 after a seminary class at Chesapeake Theological Seminary encouraged A.D. Bauer to make his class notes available to the public.

In Christian art, the square halo identified a living person presumed to be a saint. Square Halo Books is devoted to publishing works that present contextually sensitive biblical studies, and practical instruction consistent with the Doctrines of the Reformation. The goal of Square Halo Books is to provide materials useful for encouraging and equipping the saints.

LM: Why do you publish arts-related books?

We want to supply the Church with practical theological/biblical instruction and useful insights/instruction in some part of life where believers are (or should be) actively involved in bearing witness to our Sovereign God and His Kingdom through their lives, words and vocations. The arts are an area that I am interested in and there seems to be a need in the Body for art books. The owners of Square Halo care deeply for Beauty and want the Church to be interested as much in Beauty as they are interested in Goodness and Truth.

LM: Why? What does Beauty offer us?

I understand Truth, Beauty and Goodness to be a set. If I said that I was for Goodness and Beauty in the Church but we didn't need Truth, my church family would say that I was unbiblical. If I said that I was for Truth and Beauty in the Church but we didn't need Goodness, my church family would start looking into my "closet" for outrageous sins. But Goodness and Truth without Beauty is okay? No, I think we need all three. As a brief aside, I would like to emphasize that this critique is not a call to leave the church but instead to really invest yourself in the church to see Christ's Bride become more beautiful.

As Gregory Wolfe writes in Intruding Upon the Timeless: Meditations on Art, Faith, and Mystery: "The church, it is said, is a human institution, and a thoroughly fallible one at that. True, but as every artist ought to know, all our forms are imperfect—they are broken vessels. To acknowledge that brokenness is not to invalidate the need to create and strive perpetually to perfect those forms. The wonder of art, and of faith, is that we can still receive grace through the cracks in those vessels."

But back to the topic—why do I think Beauty is important? I have a Kingdom of God reason and a personal reason. In Square Halo's book It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God there is a great essay by Adrienne Chaplin on Beauty. She writes: "To seek and pursue redemptive beauty is therefore not merely a luxury pastime but a call to artists to become agents of restoration and reconciliation. Wise and winsome images—whether in paintings, music or sculptures—can serve as beacons of hope and signs of renewal." I would assert that we need Beauty for restoration and reconciliation--to live out our prayer "...Thy Kingdom come...". Personally, we need Beauty to know and understand what it means to be fully human and to be fully engaged--right here, right now.

Through his excellent audio journal Ken Myers (www.MarsHillAudio.org) has made me think often and deeply on the idea of "poetic knowledge," or for our discussion, let's call it "beautiful understanding." He wrote to me that ". . . Poetic expression conveys a heightened sense of reality because it relies on the connectedness that is the fabric of reality." Right here, right now Beauty helps us to see reality with more clarity and in brighter colors. Like when you get a new pair of glasses. There's nothing better than lying on a grassy hill and drinking in the whole world through clean lenses and a new prescription. You can describe a tree and clouds and flowers to me, but it isn't the same as knowing it through a fresh set of specs. Folks with 20/20 vision will just have to trust me on that. And perhaps they will have to trust me that we need Beauty. It is all very wibbly-wobbly, I know. Beauty doesn't fit into a periodic chart, but we need it like oxygen.

More from Ned Bustard on Thursday.


mlabar said...

I live in great hope that the church will become a visible display of the Beautiful Bride God has called us to be. Thanks for sharing with us Ned's thoughts!

LeAnne Benfield Martin said...

So do I. Beauty is one of my favorite topics, and I very much enjoyed Ned's comments. Thanks for letting me know you did too.



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