Some years ago I went to a travelling exhibit of the Vatican art treasures.
One thing leapt out at me really clearly: In contrast to all the art treasures from previous centuries, the “art treasures” from the mid-2oth century onward were terrible.
Sometime I want to post a picture of the “Millennium vestments” they designed for John Paul II. They look like some kind of alien dignitary costume from Star Trek Voyager.
And bad Catholic art is by no means confined to the travelling art treasures exhibit.
The less said about the American “contribution” to the portraits of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the better (pictured).
And there’s that horrible, goofy statue in the foyer of the Vatican Museums of a man holding a cell phone fused with a smiling John Paul II. It looks like a transporter accident (see below).
And there’s that sculpture in Rome of John Paul II that looks like the pope’s head on top of a telephone box or bus shelter that’s about to gobble up whoever steps inside it (see below).
And then there’s that weird sculpture in the Paul VI hall that you see behind Pope Benedict when he’s giving his weekly audiences. It looks like some kind of alien shrubbery from a show with a low budget for sets (see below).
And then there’s . . . okay, enough!
I’m sure you’re as sick of all the lousy Catholic art as I am.
So why not do something about it?
“Like what?” you say.
Well, how about supporting Catholic art education so that we can get better Catholic artists?
I’m glad to introduce a chance to do just that at the Chesterton Academy, where my buddy Tim Jones teaches art.
On his blog, Tim writes:
Since September 4th of this year, I’ve had the privilege of being the art instructor for the stupendously amazing 9th-12th grade students of the Chesterton Academy, in Edina, Minnesota (the West Minneapolis area).
This delightful private Catholic high school was started as a grass-roots movement of parents. The school opened its doors in the fall of 2008 with just ten students; the following year it had twenty. In its third year, it had forty-two students. This year, over eighty students are enrolled, and the school is drawing national and even international attention. Chesterton Academy was just named one of the Top 50 Catholic High Schools in the United States by the Cardinal Newman Society.
Chesterton Academy “strives to offer a classical curriculum, one that draws on the great Western traditions of faith and reason wielded in concert” as part of “a meaningful education in an authentically Catholic environment”. This includes a classical approach to art, where every student – in all four years – learns traditional methods of painting and drawing, art appreciation and art history from the cave art of Lascaux, to Egypt, Greece and Rome on up to the present day.
Our classical approach to studio art involves drawing and painting from real life, using a variety of objects and “casts” as visual references. As our program has grown, our need for casts and other art supplies has expanded as well.
One miraculous hallmark of the Chesterton Academy has been their continual ability to accomplish so much with so little. Their frugality is a virtue, because one fundamental goal of CA has been to make the classical education they offer as reasonably priced as possible, so as to keep it within reach of as many families as possible.
So there is a great opportunity, for those interested in encouraging young artists, to contribute in a substantial way that will be of immediate and direct help to these art students. Contributions of art supplies – like the plaster cast above, or drawing and painting materials – are tax deductible, and the Chesterton Academy (501c3) will provide a letter acknowledging your donation for that purpose.
But mostly, it’s a great chance to be a part of this joyful and growing revolution in education.
Thank you!! Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment and I will be in touch with more information. Meanwhile, here are some useful links for your perusal (but we will be very grateful for any kind of assistance you can offer!).
or, you can very simply donate directly to the Chesterton Academy;
(Jimmy again:) I hope you’ll support the cause of Catholic art education.
Remember! If you don’t then we may continue to be subject to art horrors like this:
Please be generous, won’t you?