5 popular artists whose faith inspires their creativity

Not every Christian lives, prays, or is called to serve in the same way. These modern artists have all successfully carried their faith into their careers—from broadway to the art gallery.

Actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth performs onstage at the 2014 UNICEF Ball in Beverly Hills, California. Michael Buckner | Getty Images for UNICEF 

Blame it on the folks decrying jazz as the devil’s music. Blame it on the book-burners and -banners. Blame it on the patrons who turn away in shock at sculpted nudes in museums. Or blame it on Footloose, if you must. But somewhere along the line, a generalization took hold: that people of faith must be people who stand against culture and the arts.

Of course, this idea is as ridiculous as the notion that true Christians must oppose all things science. While certainly there are people in the world who see red if art doesn’t explicitly reference God or contain a clear moral message, most of us understand that to enjoy art, and what other humans create, is to enjoy the imago dei, that is, the image of God, albeit imperfectly. Most of us understand that what art does to our emotions, to our minds, and to our souls—getting us feeling and thinking and longing—leads us back to our faith, no matter what path it took us to get there. And most of us understand that whenever we create, we live the image of God.

So it’s nice to recognize the people who are bridging modern art and Christianity, whether it be through painting or performance pieces. For some, their Christian identity is made obvious in their works, for others, less so. But with every one of these talented women, we see evidence of a creativity that works hand in hand with faith.

Angela Bassett

Angela Bassett

Actress Angela Bassett at The Paley Center in Los Angeles on March 20, 2016 in Hollywood, California. Amanda Edwards | WireImage

Angela Bassett rocked audiences in her portrayal as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It? and has been amazing audiences ever since with the power of her various performances. The granddaughter of a pastor, Angela grew up singing in church. “Everyone is going to serve something and that can become the center of their existence,” Bassett told Parade magazine. “Mine is love of God and faith.” And that’s something the actress carries with her, even when playing less conventional roles on popular shows like American Horror Story.

Patricia Heaton

Patricia Heaton

Actress Patricia Heaton attends AOL Build to discuss her show ‘Patricia Heaton Parties’ at AOL Studios on October 22, 2015 in New York City. Daniel Zuchnik | WireImage

Patricia Heaton, who became famous in her role as Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond and who continues to produce and act (currently in The Middle, a sitcom about suburban family life), was raised Catholic and considers herself Catholic to this day, though she attends an Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The actress spoke to BeliefNet about how she feels her faith and comedy acting go hand-in-hand—particularly on her role as a Catholic mom on Everybody Loves Raymond: “There were so many wonderful themes about relationships and love and forgiveness and faith in the show that were just beautifully woven in. Maybe you didn’t even know you were hearing it, but I think it’s the one thing that attracted people. It was consistent about this [being] our family: These are our issues, and this is how we forgive each other, and this is how we go through. It was all done with humor, and I think it’s what made us hugely popular.”

Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne robinson

Marilynne Robinson, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2009, poses with her award at the Royal Festival Hall in London, England. Frantzesco Kangaris | Getty Images

Anyone who’s read a lick of one of Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer- and Library of Congress Award winning novels can see the way faith shapes the author’s work. And that’s for good reason. “Religion is a framing mechanism,” Robinson told the Paris Review. “It is a language of orientation that presents itself as a series of questions. It talks about the arc of life and the quality of experience in ways that I’ve found fruitful to think about. Religion has been profoundly effective in enlarging human imagination and expression. It’s only very recently that you couldn’t see how the high arts are intimately connected to religion.”

Kristin Chenoweth

Kristin Chenoweth performs onstage at the 2014 UNICEF Ball in Beverly Hills, California.

Kristin Chenoweth performs onstage at the 2014 UNICEF Ball in Beverly Hills, California. Walter McBride | Getty Images

Kristin Chenoweth may have made us love Wicked-ness with her phenomenal musical performance as Glinda the Good Witch, but off the stage, Chenoweth has been vocal about her life-long Christian faith. She has talked about helping her fans learn to “pray big” and isn’t afraid to ask big questions about faith. According to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Chenoweth said, “One of the things I’ve always wanted to accomplish as an entertainer is to let people know there are real people in the real world trying to be what God wants them to be.”

Mary McCleary

Mary McCleary, a contemporary artist whose work appears in collections at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the El Paso Museum of Art, and the San Antonio Museum of Art, says her Christian faith—most notably her interest in the struggle of good versus evil—influences her work. In her artist statement, McCleary writes, “I like the irony of using materials that are often trivial, foolish, and temporal to express ideas of what is significant, timeless, and transcendent.” In these words, McCleary offers what is perhaps the best description of what Christian artists do.

Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira is the author of five books and is a columnist for Her.meneutics and ThinkChristian. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, three kids, and one red-nose pit bull. Visit her at carynrivadeneira.com.

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