There’s an old Saxon poem called Ruins. It begins like this:

These wall-stones are wondrous—
calamities crumpled them, these city-sites crashed, the work of giants
corrupted. The roofs have rushed to earth, towers in ruins.

The poem goes on to describe a once-magnificent but now decrepit city, full of towers and halls, and the poet marvels at the artistry left behind—and tries to imagine what life was like for the city’s inhabitants.

In a way, my own approach to art is like the narrator of this poem. When I look at old paintings, listen to old music, or read old books, I sometimes feel a lot like the speaker in the poem—an outsider, looking at the relics of a culture that I don’t fully understand. Sometimes I feel that way when I think about the art of the present moment. But I want to understand the culture more. If you feel the same way, RUINS just might be for you.

I am a Christian, and I care about the arts. I want to engage with the broader culture in a Christian manner, which I define as thoughtful, serious, and respectful. Thoughtful because I want to be more than a consumer—I want to interact with art and artists in a more substantial way. Serious because art has great power and deserves our careful attention (but that doesn’t mean that art can’t be playful and fun, and I do get silly here sometimes). Respectful because art is made by real people who deserve to be treated with kindness and consideration, even when there are disagreements.

I won’t necessarily take an explicitly “Christian” angle when I’m writing here—but I expect my faith will inform my observations and opinions. I hope this space will be a stimulating and engaging place where art of all kinds can be analyzed, critiqued, and enjoyed. I write approximately twice a month.

If this sounds interesting, I hope you’ll join me on a journey of exploration. Let’s investigate the ruins together.

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Art theory and criticism from a Christian aesthetician


William Collen

I'm a Christian from Omaha, I'm curious about the human experience, and I care deeply about the arts.