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What the world need now is more Catholic artists

‘Paul’, a work by atheist artist Simon Kregar

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.

Good Catholics: Salvador Dali, left, was a fascist, and Hitchcock a misogynist.

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.

He also had a very small penis, and his sexual pleasure was derived mainly from masturbation.

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.

6 responses to “What the world need now is more Catholic artists”

  1. Trevor Blake says:

    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.

    “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” A quote from a book the clergyman is apparently unfamiliar with.

    If good comes from God, all of God’s actions are good and God lacks the ability to make a choice – thus God is not good and God is not God. If good is something God does, good is external to God – thus we may be good without God and God is not God.

  2. stargraves says:

    I get your point as usual Barry – While Dali may have been an arsehole politically – I think his work is simply fantastic. His theatre museum in Figueres is a must for any fan of surreal and absurdist work. Same for a lot of Hitchcock’s films.

    Art can obviously be influenced by the viewer’s knowledge of it’s creator to it’s detriment. I kept my pornographic and adult fine art out of my portfolio when applying for work illustrating for children of course!

    I do think pieces of art can stand on their own merit without recourse to the failings of their creators though.

    For example; I can even still listen without vomiting to early megadeth records – with the full knowledge that the frontman is a fully paid-up member of the tin-hat brigade and evangelical-born- again-christian to boot!

  3. Tim Danaher says:

    And, while we’re on the subject of Catholics and art, who can forget Joachim Meisner, that wonderful old misanthrope and Catholic prelate of Cologne, sadly still breathing, who, in 2007, stated that when art becomes separated from worship it becomes “degenerate”?

    The actual word that he used was “entartet” and, trust me, that’s not a word that any right-thinking German would use these days.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6996251.stm

    What a cunt.

  4. remigius says:

    Tim, and the German for Catholic arts is Katholische kunst!

    Which is very similar to what I call the RCC.

  5. Broga says:

    @stargraves: Someone, may have been T.S.Eliot, wrote, “The artist who lives and the man who creates are distinct.”

  6. Barry Duke says:

    You have a valid point Stargraves. I too love Dalí’s work, and I rate many of Hitchcock’s movies very highly.

    One thing though that’s just occurred to me. Missing from Doran’s list was a man raised as a Catholic, remained deeply religious throughout his life, and was quite an enthusiastic artist.

    But of course Adolf Hitler’s influence on the world was not through his art. Apparently his daubs are not too highly regarded, but still fetch high prices, as this report indicates: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3308512,00.html