Autoethnography of Paint Talks: Questioning the beautiful collision between visual communication and fundamentalist christian churches

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2008-08

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Abstract

The purpose of the following thesis is to perform an autoethnographic study of artists in Fundamentalist Christian churches through the lens of Paint Talks—a Christian performance painting ministry. It aims to create conversation among scholars concerning the role of autoethnography, faith, and visual communication in the field of Communication Studies, as well as provide therapy for the Fundamentalist Christian—especially the Fundamentalist Christian artist.
The following narrative is personal—in it, I record the events of one Paint Talks performance, one calendar day spent at my grandparent's West Texas farm, and my search for a response to one BIG (Goodall, 2000) question about communication, art, and faith: “What is the role of the artist in the Fundamentalist Christian Church?” I answer this question through a series of smaller questions, namely, “Does Autoethnography choose us?”, “What is the relationship between Fundamentalism, perfectionism, and legalism?”, “Am I being true to myself as an artist and a Christian through Paint Talks?”, and, “Why are Paint Talks accepted in the Fundamentalist Christian church?” Returning to the place where much of my worldview and many of my communicative and artistic skills were formed, journaling through each step of the Paint Talks process (calling, canvas, image, performance, painting), and writing autoethnographically about my experience, I discover an absence concerning tensions of faith in contemporary autoethnographies, record the paralyzing affects of legalism and perfectionism in the life of a Fundamentalist Christian artist, find out that I am usually, but not always, true to myself as an artist and a Christian through Paint Talks, and affirm that Paint Talks performances are accepted in Fundamentalist Christian churches primarily because they speak a clear, Fundamentalist Christian message. Ultimately, and most of all, I discover that the role of the artist in the Fundamentalist Christian Church is to communicate truth, and that the Fundamentalist Christian artist is reaching out for a supportive Christian community. It is important to note, however, that the discoveries of this thesis are not final—they are emergent.

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Perfectionism, Visual communication, Autoethnography

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