Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fresh palette: Artists say they're ready to support church's mission

Michelangelo's "Last Judgment" covers the altar wall of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. How faith and art can collaborate was the subject of a landmark meeting in the historic chapel last weekend between Pope Benedict XVI and artists.
(CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Ask and you shall receive. The art world is ready to collaborate with the church in creating inspirational modern art, said some artists who took part in a landmark meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.

After decades of disinterest or suspicion, the rapport between art and religion is ready to be restored. If the church wants art to support its mission, all it has to do is call.

"The artist is really at the service of society, but to serve you have to be asked," said John David Mooney, a sculptor and installation artist from Chicago.

Polish film director Krzysztof Zanussi told Vatican Radio that the church has to take the first step in approaching artists and getting to know their work "because it's for sure that artists will never take that step.

"Mooney and Zanussi were among the more than 250 international artists invited by the Vatican in an effort to revitalize dialogue and collaboration between the worlds of faith and art.

For decades the church has expressed a need for beautiful, inspiring modern art for places of worship. It has also lamented society's overload of superficial, indecent or provocative art that fails to speak to the human soul.

In his address in the Sistine Chapel Nov. 21, Pope Benedict said his meeting with artists was "my invitation to friendship, dialogue and cooperation." He urged them to think of themselves as "custodians of beauty."

"Thanks to your talent, you have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement," the pope said, surrounded by Michelangelo's stunning frescoes.

Asking artists to be "heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity," the pope told them to not be afraid to "enter into dialogue with believers" who also see themselves as pilgrims on a journey toward infinite beauty and glory.

In an interview with Catholic News Service Nov. 23, Mooney said the reason why there is so much secular art in the world today is "because the secular world is asking for it."


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