When is church art considered good or bad?
I suppose at this point I should define what I mean by "Bad church art."
Bad church art is anything that looks like it should belong in a domestic setting, or is mundane ( indifferent in appearance) or leads the viewers thoughts AWAY from prayer rather than to it.
It is anything that could confuse a person for example, on key doctrinal issues such as the modesty and purity of the Blessed Virgin.
"Good" church art then, is none of the above.
Its not as though one has to continually hark back stylistically, to produce "good" church art, as that would be to put a straight jacket on creativity and progress. It would help though, if the artist concerned understood the reason church art exists, that it has its "raison d'etre."
For example, if I employed a central heating engineer to fix my hot water system, I would want one who was a very least familiar with his subject. Even better, if he belonged to a long line of plumbers/electricians. I would want my heating system to be the best I could afford for reasons of long term efficacy.
If, (as in the case of the Ely cathedral madonna) the invitation to produce church art work is given to someone with no particular interest in Christianity and has atheistic and pagan tendencies, then they cannot have taken heed of HOSEA 8:7 " They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind."
"Good" church art is imperative to building faith, because they have an ability to by-pass the intellect and enter straight into the heart, they have a sublime quality.
From the moment we open our eyes at birth, we continually collect information about our surroundings and our place in relation to it. By these means we define the "who" we are and the "why" we exist. For this reason, we owe it to the faithful to give them "Good" church art, which can affect their hearts in profound ways.
And this is why I make no apologies for finding the Ely Madonna distasteful in the extreme. (even though some Anglican churches contain beautiful works of art.)
I do wonder when, if someone who can, will be brave enough to admit that commerce and curiosity aren't good enough reasons to draw people into a Cathedral church. Visitors deserve more than the after-taste of a scowling Valkyrie in a tight T-shirt. After all, those kinds of maidens can be found with regularity on MTV.
Lewis and Lewis
is a Catholic family run business: specialising in statue restoration, and church interior projects.
Jeanette is a professional sculptor/fine artist and designer; husband David is a traditional upholsterer/technician.
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