A Day with Dali

Posted by Brandon Selfors on

As I reflect on our recent day trip to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg some of my takeaways include a crash course on interpreting art, Salvador Dali's worldview, and how such a worldview squares with Christian interpretation as we learned from our seminar speaker Dr. Chuck Hill.

Thanks to our docent (tour guide), we were able to learn much of Dali's life from beginning to end. Born in Catalonia, Spain, Dali was raised with affluence and chose painting at a young age. Early on, Dali had many fall outs with his father and sister, yet his mother he adored. He was seen as prideful in his abilities to "show off" his styles & techniques comparing himself with the likes of Michelangelo & Velázquez (hence his iconic mustache) as seen in his works. Dali was able to use advanced techniques that could trick the mind, making it impossible for the brain to see hidden messages of transposition. Dali is considered a father of Realism (dream art) which grew from Dada a subversive communist art. Dali was the product of two world wars and at one point, forced from his homeland. Dali was raised with some Catholic background but would waver and could never fully reconcile his deep mysticism with scientific definitives. Although Jesus is the focal point in many of Dali's paintings, figuratively speaking, Jesus was probably not Dali's dominance within the Principle of Hierarchy. Overall, Dali was a very talented artist but possibly tormented in spirit. His works are admirable and worth more than a 20 second glance, which is the average time people spend looking at museum art according to our Docent. So what can we learn from Dali's worldview that we can apply as Christians who see common grace as important and rightly ordering our own questions of mystery?
It's easy to see that Dali was influenced and deeply conflicted between these two realms of mysticism and truth claims. From a Christian perspective, we have already reconciled these matters by letting our mysticism rest in God's hands. All things are His to interpret and that gives us freedom to practice art with a proper view of creation, fall, and redemption. As far back as Dante, it's been said, "Art is the grandchild of God." Put differently, art is a distortion of a distortion of God. Given a clear view of redemption allows all mediums of art to be expressed out of love and goodness unlike the current root of worldly art that puts subversion at its core. Christ is our ax by which we cut off the roots of disordered thinking. Dr. Chuck Hill mentioned, that "sometimes things needs to be in their proper order, like family for example".

As we take in art, media, music and images that trick and subvert our mind, Dr. Hill would challenge us to be mindful of what our eyes & ears take in so that it doesn't cause us to fall into temptation. In the background, I hear pastor Steve saying, "A Christian worldview gives us corrective lenses by which we see the world interpreted through God's Word". This learning exercise has been insightful for me and I challenge other Christians to do likewise. We are all inundated with messages, but those messages that stick, make louder noise, or prick our conscience, we must be careful not to take them at face value, but instead learn to see the world as God interprets it for us in and through His Word. Thinking of Philippians 4:8 encourages me in my own artistic endeavors to let my life truly come alive like a painting by Dali. 
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things." Philippians 4:8