cover image Creative Spirituality: The Way of the Artist

Creative Spirituality: The Way of the Artist

Robert Wuthnow. University of California Press, $45 (309pp) ISBN 978-0-520-22500-8

Wuthnow (After Heaven; The Restructuring of American Religion; etc.) and his associates interviewed 100 successful artists who are interested in spirituality, offering many of their stories in this topically organized book. Ceramicists, painters, dancers, sculptors, musicians and writers talked to interviewers about their spiritual journeys, their professional lives and the way the two have informed each other, often to the point of becoming indistinguishable. While each artist's story is unique, many common themes emerge: often dealing with family trauma, these artists were spiritually curious children who asked tough questions and emerged as adults who found solace through a series of spiritual practices, romantic relationships and artistic pursuits. Compelling in some respects, these biographies are unfortunately pervaded by narcissism. In particular, several of the artists Wuthnow features have lived nomadically with children in tow, often separating them from the other parent. Wuthnow anticipates that his subjects will be perceived as self-absorbed spiritual dabblers, and takes pains on several occasions to argue that they are not. He does a fine job of finding common themes in these narratives, particularly many interviewees' appreciation of mystery and ineffability, and admiringly calls artists the spiritual leaders of our time. Artistically minded readers will likely agree with this assertion, and discover in these pages a vibrant perspective on spirituality and the meaning of contemporary life. (Mar.)