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visual art

makoto fujimura

Embracing the arts as a powerful tool for ref lection, prayer and offering hope in the darkest of times by Jessica Misener


akoto Fujimura’s art studio is hidden away in a peculiar part of Manhattan on 39th Street, an otherwise nondescript, vaguely touristy area tucked between Times Square and the bustling garment district. Once you finally find its mysterious entrance, obscured by a downstairs wine bar, the elevator leads to an unexpectedly serene environment on the third floor: sprawling white walls, floor-to-ceiling windows and a back room stuffed with easels and bottles of paint. It’s here Fujimura makes his paintings, which have adorned the walls of museums around the world, from the National Modern Museum of Art in Tokyo to the Dillon Gallery in New York. And it’s from here he runs International Arts Movement (IAM), a nonprofit artists’ collective devoted to uniting and mentoring Christian artists for the past 20 years. Just don’t call them Christians.

Ty Fujimura

“We try not to talk in terms of secularism versus Christianity because that’s not reality,” Fujimura says. “Reality is pluralistic. Even within Christianity there’s pluralism.” Fujimura’s career is an expression of his holistic views on Christian living. Born in Boston but having grown up bilingual and bicultural, he’s a successful studio artist who studied in a doctoral program at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, making him the first nonnative to do so. President George W. Bush appointed him to the National Council on the Arts from 2003-2009, and he’s painted live onstage at New York’s Carnegie Hall as part of an ongoing collaboration with composer and percussionist Susie Ibarra. Fujimura is also informed by his rich, thoughtful, Christian faith. An author of two books on spirituality (Refractions and Images of Grace), he endeavors to blend his art, his writing and his faith as

Top right to bottom right: Makoto Fujimura was commissioned to create the Four Holy Gospels project for the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. The four Gospel paintings are to the right, and are, from top to bottom, “Consider the Lilies” (Matthew), “Water Flames” (Mark), “Prodigal God” (Luke) and “In the Beginning” (John).


RELEVANT 48 | November/December 2010