art

Poverty Is Not What You Think It Is

Poverty fell off a cliff after the Second World War. It fell like a stone, including for American blacks. The economy was booming and everyone benefited. The poverty rate dropped from 35 percent in 1950 to less than 20 percent when President Lyndon Johnson, nonetheless, announced his War on Poverty. By the time the War [...]

The Day the Music Died

One day, out of curiosity, I Googled “symphony orchestras in the Muslim world.” The results were rather dismal. One site—“About Symphony Orchestras in the Arab World”—contained the following (badly translated) information: Symphony of Saudi Arabia: “Non-existent…” The Orchestra of Emirate of Qatar: “This orchestra has no clear identity…100% of foreign elements” [i.e., none of the [...]

What To See While Visiting Niagara Falls

If you are going to visit Niagara Falls, there’s one more stop every Catholic-traveller must make: The New York Power Authority on Route 104 between Niagara Falls and Lewiston, NY. It’s right between the Lower Niagara River and the Vincentian Niagara University. You must see this because, by all standards of current political correctness, it [...]

A Question of Perspective

I recently took my nine-year-old son, Karol, to the National Gallery of Art here in Washington. I knew that a nine-year-old’s idea of a fun Sunday was not necessarily looking at art, but I thought he needs some exposure to it and we can do it in limited amounts, maybe once a month. Besides, I [...]

Madonna, the Archbishop, and the Duty of the Art Patron

Madonna's Rebel Heart tour has come and gone from Singapore, but in her wake she left a hanging question not only about the responsibility of artists in today's culture, but also the responsibility of those who patronize the arts. Fans in Singapore paid anywhere from $150 to $1784 U.S. dollars for the opportunity to see [...]

Musical Quietude: Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel

We cannot grasp music intellectually, but we can let ourselves be touched by it.  ~ David Steindl-Rast, OSB And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart (Lk 2.19). HELP WANTED: Cello player. Viola would suffice, but I’d prefer a cello—doesn’t it have a more mellow, deeper tone? Plus, I like how the cello [...]

Dog and Priest: Which Is Which?

The Canadian painter Alex Colville (1920-2013) was that most curious of artistic hybrids, both a realist and a modernist. Art critic Jeffrey Myers, in an article entitled “Dangerously Real,” called Colville “one of the greatest modern realist painters.” Colville’s paintings reproduce ordinary objects, people, scenes—indeed the more ordinary, the better—with near-photographic realism. Each of his [...]

The Crisis of Contemporary Sacred Art

"This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart and is that precious fruit which resists the erosion of time, which unites generations and enables them to be one in admiration!" ∼ Closing of the Second Vatican Council: Address of [...]

Old Fashioned—A Flawed Alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey

While the Christian world and its religious allies cry in the wilderness that sex is sacred; the rest of the world is rushing to see Fifty Shades of Grey. Over Saint Valentine’s Day weekend, the bacchanal film set a box-office record for an R-rated movie opening in the month of February—and thus the record set [...]

Yes, Virginia, Santa Has a Face

Last year’s media war fought over the skin color of Santa gave us much to think about regarding racial agendas, cultural customs, and the relationship between popular tradition and concrete history. Some choose to think of Santa as being white, some choose to think of him as being black, and some choose to think of [...]

Religious Imagery in Norman Rockwell Paintings

Contrary to a widespread misconception, Norman Rockwell was not a conventionally religious man. He was raised Episcopalian and spent many boyhood hours in church serving in the choir. But as an adult, Rockwell did not belong to a church at all, and seems to have entirely walked away from any kind of regular religious devotion. [...]

New Film Reveals Genius of Obscure Photographer

Vivian Maier died in penniless obscurity five years ago; today she is fast becoming a phenomenon. On both sides of the Atlantic an award-winning film about her life and work has been released to critical acclaim. Entitled Finding Vivian Maier, it is as much a tale of detection as the story of an artist. As [...]

A Defense of the Grotesque in Flannery O’Connor’s Art

Art is the pulse of the soul. It expresses much of what is kept hidden and even what could not be expressed in any other form. Many people talk of a crisis in modern art—its abstractness, banality, and, could we even say, ugliness. If there is such a crisis, to me, it is nothing other [...]

Why Seminarians Should Study Sacred Art and Architecture

One of the recommendations of Vatican II was that priests be formed in the arts: “During their philosophical and theological studies, clerics are to be taught about the history and development of sacred art, and about the sound principles governing the production of its works. In consequence they will be able to appreciate and preserve [...]

“Making Wholeness Heals the Maker”: Why Human Flourishing Requires the Creative Act

I would like to talk a little about the idea promoted by Christopher Alexander, where “making wholeness heals the maker.” This has to do with the act of creation and, in particular, its application in art and the production of artifacts and architecture. It is a fundamental concept in creating small items, but I want [...]

Music and the Divine

There are some things in Catholic and Christian life that are not often discussed, or consequently a regular part of our thinking. It has been suggested, for example, that one will not find a single Christian hymn devoted to the dogma of  “the resurrection of the body.” St.   Augustine said centuries ago that, “No doctrine [...]

A Sculptor of the Interior Life

Tilman Riemenschneider may not have had the full complement of five talents, but however many he was given, none did he bury. Father, master sculptor, entrepreneur, civic leader: his was the busy life of the successful late-medieval artisan. Yet for all of his immersion in the affairs of this world, his sculpture remains as a [...]

A Dog’s Life: From Beast to Companion

In a our present milieu where dogs are our darling pets, fed on choice delicacies, shampooed and bathed in fancy dog tubs, housed in designer kennels, and taken around for joy rides sometimes in flamboyant doggy clothes, canine fans may be puzzled by the derision dogs receive in the pages of the New and Old [...]

Why Can’t Christian Films Be Better?

Recently I've found myself having to defend to parishioners and friends the fact that I could not stand the movie Courageous. There seems to be almost an expectation that, as a Catholic priest, I should love explicitly Christian films. While I certainly think that the message of fatherly responsibility was good, and I would support, [...]

The Unaccountable Popularity of “The Scream”

There seem to be two types of people in the world; those who think Edward Munch’s picture, The Scream, is an inspired and profound work of art, and those who can’t see what all the fuss is about. The anonymous buyer who paid nearly US$120 million for the pastel on board version (one of four [...]

The Well-Sheltered Catholic

In 1971, a group of distinguished individuals -- artists, writers, musicians, intellectuals -- sent an appeal to Pope Paul VI requesting that he preserve the classical Roman Rite of the Mass. This group, composed of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, had as their aim not the maintenance of a particular theological mode of worship so much [...]

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