May 2013

How to Greet Offending Art

If we believe that the arts are mission territory—and they are—they have to be approached with as much charity and cunning as the dugout of aboriginal tribesmen. There is little to be gained by viewing contemporary art as evidence of the depravity of man. It is bad missionary procedure to openly despise the culture we would transform. Granted, there is much to dismay, much to admonish. But the Church will not evangelize a slipping West while we cultivate our moral vanity by making an idol—or an ideology—of our own disapprovals. Continue Reading
Bloodless/Bloodied

Blood is either absent or decorously minimized in those images of Jesus’ Passion with which we are best familiar. The death of Jesus is only part of the Christ story; the momentous, history-shattering disclosure comes later. Accordingly, traditional Passion imagery inclines toward a reflective distance from the physical realities of a Roman scourging and crucifixion. Coppo di Marcovaldo, Crucifix (c.1261). Pinocoteca Civita, San Gimingnano In the earliest crucifixes, the corpus is dressed in an ecclesiastical tunic and its outstretched arms do not bend with the weight of the body. Continue Reading
Francis Votes Present

Earlier this month Sandro Magister’s Chiesa broadcast an interesting particular in the Masses celebrated by Pope Francis:
At the moment of communion, Pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio does not administer it himself, but allows others to give the consecrated host to the faithful. He sits down and waits for the distribution of the sacrament to be completed.
At solemn Masses, Francis distributes the eucharist only to his assistants on the altar. And at the juvenile detention center on Holy Thursday, he gave the sacrament to young detainees who approached to receive it. Continue Reading
Beckmann's Deposition, a Modernist Offering

We who live in the Western world at the present time continue to suffer under the reign of a great tyranny — the tyranny of artistic modernism. New English Review , August 2012
  It gets tiring, this lingering need to swipe at modernism. To the extent a date applies, the waning of modernism hovers between the late 1930s and the end of the Second World War. Yet seven decades later, one Quixote or another still gallops forward to tilt at the carcass. Continue Reading
Catholic Art?

The previous post ended with reference to what “the centuries have wrought.” A reader emailed me to ask—hopefully—if I was referring to modernism. No, not at all. In mind was the kind of emasculate anti-art rampant on plaques, statuary, prayer cards in funeral parlors, and too often in our own churches. Side altars, especially. Pictorially equivalent to sob songs, the stuff mimics Renaissance and Baroque painting but is sorely disconnected from the achievement of its prototypes. Mass produced sentimentality has been the hallmark of Catholic art since the 1840s flooded the market with a cascade of devotional stuffs from French companies located around the church of Saint-Sulpice on the Left Bank. Continue Reading