Monday, January 03, 2005


(And I fixed the link, so you can actually get to the article now. Thanks, Margo.)

From B.W., somewhere in the Northwest U.S....

I was sent your article by an iconography study group in the Northwest. [NOTE FROM BARB: Cool...Somewhere, people are studying me!] I couldn't agree more with your assessment of the "art of teaching art" in a classroom setting.

I would like to tell you about yet another new Catholic college in the works which has a different approach to art. I am part of a group of Byzantine Catholics working to open the first non-seminary Byzantine college in the U.S.

The curriculum for Transfiguration College will be loosely based upon the classical Great Books approach, with modifications for the Eastern Christian approach to Theology--we will read the Fathers, for instance, rather than basing the Theology courses upon Aquinas. [NOTE FROM BARB: HMMMM...Isn't that kind of like studying electricity, and stopping with Ben Franklin....]

But, included as an integral part of the curriculum will be the insistence that all students must have a course in basic iconography. The course will begin with the "Theology of the Icon" and with the very basic preparation of the board. Throughout the first year of study, the student will be expected to finish four icons--Theotokos, Christ the Teacher, their own patron saint and one subject of their own choosing.

The theology course will run concurrently with the painting aspect of the course; they will definitely have to "feed their souls" while engaged in iconography. The theology and the painting are inextricably intermingled, actually. All this is to
be done specifically in a studio setting.

The studio will be an integral part of the campus, but the operations will not be limited to only the students at Transfiguration. There are a large number of local people already engaged in serious iconography due to a series of workshops in the area.

There is, of course, a tremendous difference between the approaches to liturgical art in East and West. The East has always placed art (or the approach to God under the aspect of Beauty) at the center of the liturgical life. The icon is an inescapable part of the Divine Liturgy; the very theology of art is radically different in the Eastern mentality. Eastern religious art is strongly contemplative of its very nature, whereas Western art would tend to be a more meditative...

In any event, I think you have touched upon an important part of the argument concerning Catholic religious art. More is needed than simply beautifying churches with something of a higher order than "burlap banner art"--clearly much work must be done to align artistic mentalities and spiritualities with the mind of the Church. Logically (if God is unified and simple), there must be a correct approach to religious art which must rule out the individualistic artistic anarchy which has prevailed in the West for so long.

Art, at its base, must be an expression of the Beauty of God, and not an expression of the individual artist's vision. There are objective standards which apply to religious art if heresy is to be avoided; the East has largely kept to
these standards...

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