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October 2, 2013 / L-ren

Art, Faith, and People Who Enjoy Boxes

Maureen Mullarkey’s latest on her First Things blog has some original thoughts! Hurrah!

Most interesting to this “Catholic Artist”:

What is beauty? The question is better left to philosophers. It is a bootless one for artists to brood over. It does nothing to enhance the work of an artist’s hand. It is the experience of beauty—sensory, emotional, psychological—not any definition that makes an artist’s work intelligible to himself. Herself. Creators of the greatest beauty possess it by instinct. Yet, the question has become a species of branding device among Christian, particularly Catholic, artists.
Why do we Catholics brand ourselves so much? I was delighted to see that the Catholic Artists Society, which is big into traditional liturgy and has organized some phenomenal events, was pairing with Greg Wolfe of Image who–gasp!–lets atheists write fiction for his magazine. One acquaintance who attended the lecture told me that “some of his friends” didn’t like Wolfe’s lecture, and I replied, a little too aggressively, that I knew exactly which friends those were and all of the boring reasons they didn’t like it.

Catholic non-artists have taken an interest in Catholic artists for a variety of reasons. Off the top of my head, they include:
1) Someone stop the ugly of Vatican II, please,
2) A false notion that good art can be used for marketing, because when tourists see The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel they convert to Catholicism,
3) Didn’t there used to be Flannery O’Connor? People liked her, right?

I’ve taken to heart what my literary theory professor told me sophomore year of college: “Once I got a PhD, I stopped writing poetry.” Constantly analyzing myself-as-Catholic-artist will do little to help my art, methinks. And sure, I could go read Maritain, but maybe my time would be better spent sitting and writing.

In sum: Catholic branding, it’s the worst.
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One Comment

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  1. Monica Herber / Oct 2 2013 5:38 pm

    Love it!!! Artists (especially catholic/christain ones) should trust the Holy Spirit to guide their work. God can take great care of branding himself and making His work known! He doesn’t need to even be mentioned in the artwork in order to get His gospel message across. Do the mountains, flowers, birds, humans, etc. have the Name of Jesus expressly written on them declaring His authorship? (Other than DNA, no.) To those who pay close enough attention, it is clear who their creator is.
    I will say, however, witnessing a clear “shout out” to the name of Jesus, the Creator of creators, in a work of art, every now and again is a breath of fresh air!

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