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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Church Art Shouldn't Make You Say "Blech!"

When it comes to art, my mantra is basically "I may not know much, but I know what I like." At the very least, I can tell the difference between beauty and ugliness.

And when it comes to art in churches - statues, iconography, stained glass images - well, it ought to both reflect and project beauty. It ought to reflect the beauty, truth and goodness of God, creator of all things, as best presented by the artist's hands and imagination. And it also ought to project the blessed beauty of our final end - heaven, and eternal union with God. It ought to be beautiful, as well as draw us towards Beauty.

If the work of art fails to do either of those two things, then it should not be anywhere near a church.

One problem with the progressive mentality in the Catholic Church is that it seeks to destroy the good and the true and the beautiful, and erect in its place the grotesque and the false and the ugly. It then defends itself by saying "Beauty is subjective", or "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Then it tries to convince you that the New is superior to the Old, mainly because it is Different and progresses towards something. This has happened in my parish.

On either side of the sanctuary stand two alcoves. In one, there was a lifesize reproduction of the Pieta; in the other, a shrine to the Blessed Mother. The statue of Mary was painted, traditional, beautiful. A bank of votive candles stood before her.

They were removed recently by the pastor. Beyond the fact that he's somewhat progressive, I was told that he felt the Pieta "disturbed" children because it depicted such a sad scene. Using that logic, I'm sure it's just a matter of time before the crucifix is replaced with a "Resurrection Jesus" superimposed upon a cross. I don't know the rationale for having taken away the Blessed Mother statue, but I'm sure the reason was just as flimsy.

These were replaced with two new statues, wood carvings that are better viewed than described (although the pictures don't do their hideousness justice):

In case you couldn't tell, the top one is of Blessed Mother Mary, the other is St. Joseph with a young Christ. Except that's not what they're called. No, the female one, while it is of Mary, is actually called "Starving Palestinian". The other goes by something along the lines of "Bedouin". I kid you not.

I'm not sure what the significance of the arm placement in the top statue (I'm sorry, but I can't bring myself to say it represents Mary). Usually she's depicted with hands folded, or spread out with palms up, or similar positions. This image tells me she's being closed and withholding grace from us. It's very disconcerting. The other statue? If someone didn't tell me it represented St. Joseph, I never would have guessed it. The misshapen head is enough to make me look away.

And where are the halos?

Now, many parishoners have complained to the pastor about these new additions. To one, he said "just stand in front of them and look. They'll grow on you." Excuse me, father, but holy art isn't designed to "grow on you". Moss grows on you. Cobwebs grow on you. Bacteria grows on you. Holy art ought to uplift, inspire and show us the face of God. To lead to meditation and contemplation. For me, these statues cannot do that.

Some of the parishoners have put together a petition to have the statues removed - which I readily signed.

Oh - and get this. The artist's wife? I learned she runs reiki sessions out of their studio. Yeah.

Those unholy statues have no business being on consecrated ground.

What do you think?