What the world need now is more Catholic artists
SOME years back, having awoken to a grey, drizzly morning that ruled out a day at the beach, I – together with my late partner Brian – decided instead to find out whether the Sitges, a picturesque resort near Barcelona, had anything to offer in the way of culture.
It did … and then some! We found a number of quite stunning galleries packed with modern paintings, ceramics and sculpture, and one Escher-like canvas, done by a local artist, so delighted us that we bought it on the spot. To this day it hangs in my apartment, where it serves as a reminder of a beautiful day out with a man that I loved dearly – and a very surreal experience.
On the way back to our hotel, we spied a gallery attached to a large Catholic Church, and decided to check out its exhibits. The walls of the gloomy interior were covered in paintings of Jesus, various versions of his crucifixion, and pictures of all the popes through the ages.
As we were contemplating these images with profound distaste, we became aware of strange panting and grunting noises coming from behind one of the massive oak doors to the gallery. So did the attendant, who rushed over to the inward-opening portal, and jerked it away from the wall.
Revealed was a young Spanish couple, whom we assume, were so overcome with the “erotic” nature of the exhibits, that they secreted themselves between the door and the gallery wall, and were banging away with great gusto.
Far from being outraged, a posse of little old Spanish ladies who were in the gallery, laughed and applauded, then booed the attended who ordered the couple to get dressed and leave.
The memory of this incident came rushing back this morning when I discovered a piece on Catholic World Report. Writing under the heading Catholics and the Arts: an Unfortunate Estrangement, Thomas M Doran laments the fact that:
A sizeable percentage of committed Catholics have given up on the arts: literature, poetry, visual art, music, and film, at least art that is produced in the public arena.
Doran notes that without Catholic influence, the world has been engulfed by:
A steady stream of art that disparages and ridicules Catholic beliefs, with few countervailing influences, [and] is producing a dogmatically nihilistic, self-indulgent society.
He then asks:
That isn’t to say that all public art is bereft of value, but who can deny that the dark thread of nihilism and materialism has infected much of it? Whose High Art today actually probes, inspires, stirs, and awakens?
And he adds:
Catholic engagement with secular art is more essential than ever. But how, in a society that is largely suspicious of traditional faith in general, and Catholicism in particular, and jaded when it comes to values and morality? Such a society can hardly be leavened by resorting to dogma or Biblical texts; such a society requires a kind of proto-evangelization.
If Catholics cede art in the public square to atheists and nihilists, as we have been doing in recent decades, culture will continue to erode. Some of the most avant-garde art today is profoundly dehumanizing, and when the sense of human special-ness (sacred-ness to Christians) is lost, human rights are bound to follow. A cold and clammy utilitarianism is filling the void.
What made me raise an eyebrow was that, in a list of many Catholic novelists, essayists, correspondents, poets, and even visual artists who exerted a profound effect on their societies through their art, Doran includes one notorious misogynist, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, and a fascist wanker, Salvador Dalí.
Tipi Hedren, star of The Birds, called Hitchcock a misogynist and said that he effectively ended her career by trapping her in her contract when she rebuffed his sexual advances. In 2012, Hedren described Hitchcock as a “sad character”; a man of “unusual genius”, yet:
Evil, and deviant, almost to the point of dangerous, because of the effect that he could have on people that were totally unsuspecting.
Sound to me like a pretty good description of Pope Ratzinger.
And according to this piece, Dalí was an active and belligerent supporter of Spain’s fascist regime:
He used fascist terminology and discourse, presenting himself as a devout servant of the Spanish Church and its teaching – which at that time was celebrating Queen Isabella for having the foresight to expel the Jews from Spain and which had explicitly referred to Hitler’s program to exterminate the Jews as the best solution to the Jewish question.
Note: The main picture on this page is the work of Tucson, Arizona artist Simon Kregar, whose other paintings can be seen on his Atheist Nexus page.