Generally, there is not much clarity around the narrow but easily contentious subject. If anything, most talks I've seen - heard - fall in the wooly and muddled category. I pass no such judgment on the above mentioned current discussions because I haven't gotten time to read them carefully (catching up on class planning just three days away from school opening). But a glance over the comment sections pretty much confirms my past impression of how uncertain and divergent the views are about the art thingie in the context of religion.
|Melancholia by Albrecht Durer|
As I've noticed the term religious art being used in these discussions, I thought maybe it's helpful to first clarify the definition of religious art. That reminded me of an essay written by Maureen Mullarkey, an art critic of the first order in my estimation, whose intellectual vigor and honesty I hugely admire, and who is a very fine painter herself. The essay was written for the Catholic Crisis Magazine, titled An Unmanifesto: A Proposal to Retire “Catholic Art”. Although I'm aware of the the nuanced differences between what's called "religious art" and "Catholic art," I recommend her essay for the close relatedness addressing the two things under discourse: art, religion.
I also want to share a bit of where I personally have found clarity in seeing the relations between art and religion.
Following my conversion my thoughts naturally turned to the same set of questions, among them "can there be religious art?" "how does an artist who's Catholic live up to her vocation?" Or, "does an artwork have to have religious symbols to serve the Good?" In other words, all questions in the realm of art and religion.
In my search for validation of some privately harbored convictions for being a Catholic artist, and for a model who has the grits to endure misunderstandings and conflicts from within and without, I discovered Flannery O'Connor. The book The Habit of Being, the collection of her letters to fellow Christians, artists, friendly skeptics, has been a life saver to me. As an extension for her views of being an artist who's Catholic can also be found in her talks given to college students and other communities collected under the book title Mystery and Manners.
Through reading Flannery O'Connor, I discovered the writings of Jacques Maritain, especially his book called Art and Scholasticism, which provides me with much needed insights into the reality of art from theological stand point. There's also a collection of his writings under the title The Responsibility of the Artist, available online. These together look into the relations between art and religion, as well as helps the artist understand where his craft stands in view of his religious belief. Maritain's view is honed from his scholarship of Medieval philosophy, therefore has deep Christian, specifically Catholic, roots.
These recommendations are meant to share a few resources which have been invaluable to me as a practicing artist. I hope they help further the discussion and deepen the interest and understanding of art for fellow Christians.
Cheerios on a rainy, sloppy day in my land.