Beauty

A Plea For No Christmas Letters

The holiday has been put away. The wreath is turning brown. Town Christmas tree pick-up began last week. It is time to head to the Met to buy next year’s cards at half-price in the museum store. The general run of  contemporary Christmas mailings ranks low on any measure of cultural exchange. It is not nostalgia that sends me hunting for cards with older images. It is the clear, transparent fact that the graphics of a previous generation addressed themselves to the eye—and the spirit—with an intelligence that is fast disappearing from our sensibilities. Continue Reading
Beauty & Accidents of Perception

Nature is terrifying. Aesthetic distance from dread of it increases only in proportion to our mastery over it. Shelter from it frees us to make art of our aesthetic promptings, so easily confused with a spiritual consciousness. It is snowing as I type this. Icicles two and three feet long hang from the gutters. A struggling andromeda outside the front door is bent in two by the weight of ice. My long curving, uphill driveway, treacherous in bad weather, is impassable. Continue Reading
The Conversion of Artists?

The website of the Catholic Artists Society offers an audio download of its sponsored lectures. In return, it asks only for the courtesy of a small voluntary donation. When I went to the site after Gregory Wolfe’s talk, there was an addendum to the donation button. If you preferred prayer to cash, you could make good by saying a decade of the Rosary for the conversion of artists. That codicil is now gone, thank goodness. The conversion of artists. Given the unlovely, preparatory landfill turned out in carloads by MFA programs, it might have seemed a humane objective. Continue Reading
Beauty, the Mantra

Beauty will save the world—a mantra among contemporary Christians issuing from the mouth of a character in nineteenth century Russian fiction. Susan Walp. Small Red Apples in a Berry Box (2011). Augustine’s Beauty has already saved the world. Our ransom has been paid. What matters now is whether the world cooperates with its redemption or flouts it. History will tell in the end. The arts of the beautiful are weightless in the balance. They can only scratch at the surface—if that—of moral beauty. Continue Reading
Mike Walsh, MM. The Hudson Dragon (2013). Looking west across the Hudson at serpentine clouds that spread like a Chinese dragon over the highlands.

The feeling for things in themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures. —Vincent Van Gogh   This is the day that the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it. —Psalm 118:24 Mike Walsh, MM. The Hudson Dragon (2013). Looking west across the Hudson at serpentine clouds that spread like a Chinese dragon over the highlands. I love the words of that psalm. They repeat in my heart like a mantra. This is the day —not just today, October 10; not yesterday or tomorrow but the entire span of our days. Continue Reading