Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Problem of Catholic Art

Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm a bit geeky, a bit artsy, and a bit odd. But I am also a Roman Catholic. I love the long artistic tradition of the Catholics who came before me. Anyone who has even dipped a toe into the Renaissance or Medieval time periods knows that the Catholic Church commissioned some of the most famous pieces of art of that time, and even more great art was commissioned that was made by Catholics for secular use too.

But nowadays there is no more good Catholic art. It's either just too tacky, a slavish reproduction of the past, usually made in great haste in a workshop to be put on a shelf in a religious bookshop, or it's some "great masterpiece" from an artist trained in a school of modern art who happens to be doing a piece for a religious organization, and who may or may not have any idea what "religious art" means besides that someone in a collar is paying him to make it.

I do not pretend to be a great artist by any stretch of the imagination. I'd probably get myself thrown out of one of those tacky workshops for being undisciplined, and my atavistic little mindset would get me thrown out of a modern art school. But I have eyes, and I can tell you what we need to produce great Catholic art again: we need to be able to train and support good Catholic artists. Our own artists. We cannot hire the usual product of secular art schools and expect great religious art, nor can we turn to the cheap workshops and expect anything but tasteless reproductions.

I wish I had the time and loquaciousness to elaborate on practical solutions to this problem like some bloggers do. But perhaps I can provide some fuel for thought, something others can ponder and write on.

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