Beauty, like faith, is a mystery. Its interpretation is individually subjective, but also corporate. To quote W H Vanstone (Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense), a work of art creates the possibility of of what we may call a responsive creativity… its greatness, and therefore its greatest blessing, is received only through the articulation of its greatness.
So it is not possible for a piece of art to become great without public acclaim. Art must therefore be publicly displayed in order to call out our creative response to it.
The reason for this excursion into philosophy is a ‘corn doll’ that we had in church over harvest. We have an artist in our congregation, and it is a delight to show her works in church. But putting it up might have provoked reactions of joy, mystification or dislike. So, does art have to be beautiful to be meaningful? No. Does it have to be meaningful? I think I would argue that if it produces a creative response, it is necessarily meaningful.
Vanstone goes on to argue that responsive creativity is the coming-to-be of one’s own recognition of blessing conferred by the original creativity, God, who awaits our creative recognition of love. So any art which provokes a response, whether great or not, leads us further into the heart of our Creator, whose art we rejoice in. Long live the corn dolly and all who respond to her.