Mural Painter Predicts Another Renaissance


SONORA, MEXICO - Artist Daan Hoekstra, an American mural painter living in Sonora, Mexico sees another renaissance on the horizon. He believes it will happen as the result of the very same phenomenon that led to the first Renaissance—a renewed interest in the natural world. "By far the most significant cultural development of the 21st century is this passionate shift towards nature," says Hoekstra. "It is like a tidal wave, apparent in secular, political and religious realms alike."

Hoekstra sees evidence of the tide in Green politics, in the multitude of environmental organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club and in the popularity of ecotourism. The big surprise, he says, is that the main monotheistic religions have incorporated environmentalism into the orthodoxy. This is most clearly seen in the National Religious Partnership for the Environment ( "The NRPE is not a small group of isolated idealists, it is a consortium of the highest administrative bodies of Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism in the United States. The popularity of panentheism, the belief that God is in nature and nature is in God, can be seen in the massive following generated by authors like Matthew Fox, an ex-Dominican priest who pushed the idea of panentheism as far as he could before he was excommunicated. Outside of mainstream religion one sees a growth of interest in pantheism, shamanic traditions and paganism. Hoekstra says it all boils down to a revolution in culture, especially in the Arts.

"In a Europe that was largely Catholic, the first Renaissance was a direct result of the efforts of Francis of Assisi and Thomas Aquinas, who placed a new emphasis on the natural world. Prior to this really immense reorientation, Catholic philosophy saw the spiritual world as more real and more relevant than the natural world. With Aquinas and Francis of Assisi, nature came to be seen as infused with God and thus relevant. Once nature became relevant, art and science flourished. Nature, for the artist, is the wellspring of imagery, imagination and creativity—the artist's highest model."

Hoekstra sees precisely the same situation today. "The modern movement in art was a reaction against 500 years of the credo ‘art imitates nature.' The moderns had no interest in referring to the natural world. They wanted to break completely from the constraints of a tradition rooted in nature. Much modern theory drew from Plato's concept that the world of ideas is much more real than the material world we know with our eyes. Today we are seeing a backlash against modern art's flight from nature. If nature is the source of creativity and the standard against which the artist must measure herself, the return to nature is going to reinvigorate the Arts to an extraordinary degree—another Renaissance."

When asked if his views are reactionary, the mural painter replied: "Not at all. The history of art is just a series of revolutions and counterrevolutions. We are seeing a reaction against 100 years of art that was itself a reaction against 500 years of art rooted in nature. The tide of history is overwhelmingly pointing towards an interest and concern for the health of our life support system, which is planet Earth. Theories of art from the last century no longer fit within this context. Art never repeats itself. It always expresses its own era. The new movement will be entirely fresh, with new imagery, new symbols, and new ideas to express. But it will be rooted in an old tradition of reverence for the visual world and the natural world.

Daan Hoekstra is the founder of Classical Realism Quarterly. With fellow artist Mark Balma, he worked on the largest buon fresco mural in the United States since Diego Rivera.

Details about Hoekstra's background and career, as well as images of his artwork may be found on his website at


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