Just a few weeks after Catholic artist Cory Heimann got married, a close friend of his, who had been planning on travelling to Africa to film a documentary, passed away. That friend had a simple but inspiring mission statement: “Present Christ as irresistible to the yearning heart.”
“Ever since that day, I've taken that mission as my own,” Heimann told CNA in e-mail comments. “And if Christ is irresistible, all we have to do is show it. I think that's our job as artists, whether subtle or overt.”
That mission statement has driven Heimann’s work with his design studio, Likable Art, as well as the work behind his new book, “Created: Bridging the Gap Between Your Art and Your Creator,” which explores the art and inspiration of more than 40 Catholic artists and creators of all kinds.
“When I see great work I want to know how the heck did they do that? How did they take their ideas and share it with me in a way that moves me to my core?” Heimann said in a video about the project. So he decided to ask them — if you could share anything with your fellow artists and creators, what would be your first five words to them?
Heimann chose to start with five words, because the first five words of the Bible are also about creation: “In the beginning, God created.” (Genesis 1:1). “I realized that's why it's so innate in us to create — because we're sharing in the first thing that God shared that He did,” he said.
For the book, Heimann sought out his heroes — Catholic artists, architects, chefs, musicians, calligraphers, and everyone in between. He talked both to artists who are doing specifically Catholic work, and artists who are Catholic but working in the secular world. “We have everything from podcasters to painters, from Bishop Barron to a kindergarten teacher,” he said. That’s because, as Catholic author and philosophy professor Peter Kreeft explains on his page: “We're artists because God is.” “Which goes to show that in some way we are all artists, we just have to recognize it,” Heimann added.
This idea was also proposed by Pope John Paul II in his 1999 letter to artists, in which he wrote: “Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece.”
There has been a recent re-emphasis on the importance of beauty and quality art in the Church, including the creation of a collaborative group called Catholic Creatives, the brainchild of brothers Marcellino and Anthony D’Ambrosio. Many of the artists and creators in the book, including Heimann, are part of the group.
Good art is important in the Church, Heimann said, because it is the first thing that can attract and invite modern man into a deeper conversation. He said that Bishop Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles explains on his page that using beauty to draw someone to the Church is like taking a kid to a baseball game to inspire him to play baseball, rather than just telling him all the rules. “You take him to a game, let him smell the smells and watch the players, and he will desire and ask how to play the game. Good art does that for the Church, it draws us in to ask for the truth. We don't abandon the truth, but we do lead with beauty,” Heimann said.
He added that he hopes the book will inspire people to continue creating, and will help them see how the act of creating could lead them closer to God, and ultimately answer the question, “Why bother with beauty?”
“I think this book will (show) those that wrestle with being too artsy for their Catholic friends and too Catholic for their artsy friends that they have a place in the Church, and that their passions and desires are needed. I hope that it will help people to not turn inwardly in their creating but instead turn toward the ultimate creator.”
The 9x9-inch book features a full-sized color photo or work of art from each collaborator, as well as their first five words and a brief reflection on how their art leads them to God. The book’s beauty also has the potential to draw in people who might not consider God as part of their creative process, Heimann noted.
“We never intended it, but I think this turned out to be one of the best evangelization books for the right-brained,” he said. “The average person reads two books a year, but this book doesn't fall into that problem. It's a book where you flip through a bit, you read a page, then another and all of a sudden you've read the whole book.”
The project has already seen impressive success — within two days of launching the book’s kickstarter fundraising page, the project had already surpassed its goal of $7,000, with more than $10,000 pledged by a total of 218 backers.