The Art And sculpture of Matthew brooks
Custom commissioned religious art
Into this breach has leapt an entire cancerous industry which busily churns out hyper-sentimental pictures and statues mass-produced by nameless and faceless draftsmen armed with airbrushes and palettes of soft pastel hues that are nevertheless consumed en’masse by legions of believers desperate for anything that will fill the void created by modern art.
Like weeds choking out beneficial crops this industry vacuums up what little funds there are for religious art ensuring that talented artists go elsewhere.
For art dies without patronage.
As for me, I find myself in the same dilemma as the Apostles when Jesus asked them if they too would leave him. To which Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
The Lord never asks that we succeed only that we try. And there’s something else I’ve found: When one reaches for the Divine with becoming reverence and humility…the Divine reaches back.
The great illustrator N.C. Wyeth put it well when he said: “Back in the golden days of art an air of great seriousness, of religious fervor surrounded the training of the artist; the profession was closely linked with the Church and to a very great extent supported by it so that when one entered the field it was done with becoming reverence and humility which preserved a most fertile condition of the mind for spiritual as well as technical growth. But today we have not the Church, nor have we supplied any substitute to invest the profession with these inspirational qualities.”
The key phrase is “becoming reverence and humility.” For there is a difference between reaching for the divine with becoming reverence and humility and aspiring to the divine full of pride and self-love. It is this latter state of mind that informs much of what passes for religious art today. The distortion of the form and imagery of creation and even the outright eschewing of any recognizable form at all is born of this diseased spiritual state. It should come as no surprise that this malady is not unique to art but rather pervades much of modern thought and undertaking.