Veith tries to tackle a subject that has long been neglected - Christianity and art from biblical times to the postmodern era. Although he gives an acceptable overview for a 230 page paperback, there are many areas where he is just too simplistic.
Veith attempts to create an absolute of the "Christian artist" based on the Tabernacle work of Bezalel. That may be as erroneous as creating a flat world from the scripture verse that deals with "the four corners of the earth."
He makes quick generalized statements about non-Christian artists without being able to back them up - "Jackson Pollock's experiments in the random patterns made by paint flung onto a canvas, might exhibit some cleverness, I suppose - as in, whoever would think to do such a thing? - but no real intelligence or knowledge." Those of us who are artists, however, know better (Veith is an English professor). Pollock's work shows a remarkable amount of knowledge and mastery: The intricate rhythmic harmonies passed down from his mentor, Thomas Hart Benton; the "dance" of the western plains' indians now reproduced in an "action painting"; the understanding of how paint drips and flows (as seen in splatterings of nature); the knowledge of color harmonies; etc.
Veith also comments on Duchamp's inability to create art with his "ready-mades" (An idea championed by Francis Schaeffer). However, this is Duchamp's point. Art not only can be the idea and conception of the artist, but also, art exists around us in all forms that generally go overlooked. Duchamp expanded the narrow vision of the Christian artist and their understanding of creativity and freedom.
Until a writer/artist comes forward to write something of this nature, State of the Arts will have to do. Just remember to proceed with caution and don't buy the whole package.
Most helpful in this book, and probably unique compared to similar books, is "Part 2: The Biblical Foundations". (Sure, I had read Francis Shaeffer's "Art and the Bible"...But this may be a little more in-depth.) The chapters are called: "6)The Vocation of Bezalel" (the calling of the artist) "7)The Works of Bezalel"(various types of art sanctioned by scripture) "8)The Idolotry of Aaron" (Biblical example of a gifted artist who's art went arwy)
As a painter, I also found the chapter "Art and the Church" both encouraging and challenging. Dr Veith points to the centrality of the Word of God and the limitations of art & aesthetics compared to the Gospel. Very helpful.
I do not find Dr Veith's critique of the Art World to be too extreme, or as un-compassionate as a previous reader does. Considering the overall context of this book, it seems to me that Dr Veith emphasizes the high standard and purpose of Scripture for the arts, and invites Christians to join in on embracing these truths.