November 23, 2009

Separation of Church and Art

Striking Worker, Assassinated, 1934 by Manuel Alvarez Bravo
Photograph from the collection of The Getty Center Los Angeles

"Somewhere along the way, the Vatican's relations with the art world had clearly gone astray.

And so in an effort to improve the Catholic Church's engagement with contemporary artists - and perhaps put a gentler face on a contentious papacy - the Vatican invited more than 250 artists, architects, musicians, directors, writers and composers for an audience on Saturday with Pope Benedict XVI.

Sitting before Michelangelo's "Last Judgment" in the Sistine Chapel, after a choir sang music by Palestrina, Benedict urged them to embark on "a quest for beauty." In what he called "a cordial, friendly and impassioned appeal," he told his guests to be "fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty, to communicate in and through beauty."

. . . . . . . . 

From writings by the artist Sue Coe:

"If I get safe contraceptives I can paint romance not abortion.
If you create jobs I won't paint poverty.
If you remove your armies from other people's countries, I won't paint war.
If you remove prisons I won't paint the incarcerated.
If you remove bloody nuclear weapons from my garden, I will find time to paint the flowers."

. . . . . . . .

Instead of being worried about its own divisive nature, exclusionary beliefs, male-dominated agenda of control and profit, questionable political alliances, involvement in and support of mankind's conflicts and wars, and a very serious history of abuse issues ... organized religion decides to ask artists to embark on "a quest for beauty."

William E. Geist's November 12, 1983 article Residents Give A Bronx Cheer To Decal Plan always reminds me of Mayor Edward I. Koch's fiasco in authorizing New York City to "place large vinyl decals depicting shutters, potted plants, Venetian blinds and window shades over the yawning windows of abandoned city-owned buildings" in the Bronx in an effort to improve the image of the borough.

What do they say about putting lipstick on a pig?

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