Book sale! As I said in yesterday’s post – since yesterday was the 5th anniversary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s address to schoolchildren that inspired Be Saints! – I’m offering at a discount price. $9/copy or 5 copies for $40. That includes shipping. Here’s the link to the post, and here’s the link to the bookstore.
Click on image for a larger view. The book is composed of images of children and young people with quotes from B16’s talk and the saints.
Went to an interesting talk this week at our Birmingham Museum of Art from Dr. Erika Doss of Notre Dame – she spoke on her research-in-progress on religion and modern American artists.
BMA: You’ll also consider the styles of famous artists such as Joseph Cornell, Mark Tobey, Agnes Pelton, Mark Rothko, and Andy Warhol. Do you think religious beliefs (or lack thereof) influenced the styles of these artists, or has the religious climate simply influenced how viewers think about them?
ED: The point of my project is to consider how religious beliefs influenced the art that was produced. Sometimes it is more blatant than others. For instance, Mark Tobey made art for the Baha’i temples just after World War I. Afterwards, a lot of his abstract art was influenced by his state of mind and his religious beliefs.
Today, we are reluctant to look at these artists who had faith or particular beliefs because religion is a loaded subject. We are so divided and there are so many stereotypes – the reality is that most of us are just uninformed. People are terrified to talk about Warhol as a Catholic artist, because then it is just called “Catholic art.” My work wants to give the social and religious context of how he works, as a Catholic, gay artist in the twentieth century, and then look at his paintings. Of course it is easy to look at some of his works, like his Last Supper paintings, and assume the religious undertones, but we need to think more about how these religious beliefs shape what and how he created.
BMA: You note that religion was largely excluded from the history of modern American art. Do you believe that the modern art movement was always secular, or have we left out religion as we’ve studied the era in retrospect?
ED: Much of my book is why people don’t talk about religion and art today. For instance, we tend to discuss the abstract art of Mark Rothko in terms of color and brushwork, not necessarily about Rothko as an artist. However, Rothko himself said he wants people to look at his paintings and have some sort of emotion and feeling; it’s important to consider Rothko’s own feelings and beliefs when he painted.
Rothko was the son of an Orthodox rabbi, he was Jewish by birth but not overtly Jewish (and also never renounced his faith). Looking at his paintings, we must consider what it meant to be Rothko – a Jewish artist in post-World War II New York, which was still a very anti-Semitic place. It was not until the Civil Rights Movement that the quota on Jewish students in Ivy League schools was lifted. So, we must look back into that moment and consider the context, especially the religious ones, that affected his work.
Also, sometimes people view abstract art as inherently spiritual simply because of its style. I want to avoid that slippage and categorization – it’s more about the artist and their background.
The talk was Wednesday evening at the museum, at the same time as Scouts – thanks to everything being close together and no traffic, it was an easy shot – drop off at scouts, shoot over the mountain to the museum, listen & learn, then back for pick-up. Perfect!
Science this week:
Part of it as least, as we gear up for plant study in earnest. Also happening – several other long-term plant experiment/demonstrations scattered about the house – leaves taped up under dark construction paper, slathered with vaseline, beans sprouting, etc.
Science also happened in these ways this past week:
- A new weekly zoo class for the “junior veterinarian” – he loved it. He’s finally aging out of the “3rd-4th” grade classes into the “5th-8th” levels, and it is much more satisfying to him.
- A first weekly class in the history of science from a new attempt at a Catholic hybrid/homeschool arrangement here in town. Topic: Marie Curie. The other class was a drama class. Both were deemed “really good.” Success!
- Over this week, he read Island of the Blue Dolphins – aside from the writing and content work, every day, we ended up talking about some form of sea life or other, including kelp, which led us to swing back around to algae, which we had discussed last week – that’s why I treasure this homeschooling thing – the rabbit holes, the exploration, that eventually show the connectedness of everything and how learning just goes on and on and on.
This is a repeat from last week but I wanted to add that this week, we all began our volunteering, and it was great for all of us to be able to work with these kids and listen to them read, and read with them. Yes, the boys (ages almost 11 and 14) participated, too. The readers struggled at times but were determined!
Reposted in case you’re moved to help this outreach….
First, a tiny, historic parish not far from where we live has strong ministries for the local neighborhood, especially for children. We are going to be involved in this fabulous after school reading room – you can read about it on the pastor’s blog here, and if you are able, to help out a bit with the final expenses? Maybe?
This same outcome is what we want for the youth who live near my smaller parish, Holy Rosary. They live in one of the most afflicted neighborhoods of Birmingham, Alabama. The public schools in the area have not always had the highest ratings. We have encountered children who – even in third or fourth grade, and receiving decent grades on their report cards – had extremely low or nearly non-existent levels of literacy. These children often come from irregular family situations and poverty. Some have never really been read to. And in the face of this, our local situation, we want to make a difference.
Thus, thanks to the inspiration of a certain special lady and the great help of many parishioners, friends, and other members of our community, we have started a new apostolate, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Learning Center – named for the first canonized American-born saint and founder of Catholic schools in our country, who also had a religious order that served the poor. The Center just opened this past week. It consists of two rooms and a bathroom in an existing building on our campus, which we renovated so that the youth will have a good place to do homework and read. And there are no concrete block walls or harvest gold drapes. Much to the contrary. Take a look:
New free desk gathered up curbiside. It’s the little things that can sometimes help recharge you…
A bit of recompense for all the free stuff I’ve put curbside. Donation or curbing it is generally less trouble than trying to sell things, unless good money can be had for The Things.
Here’s a question – one of many – that I’m pondering. Is the nature of the PR preceding the papal visit to the US – the emojis, the #popeishope stuff, the crystallization of two years of a new direction – helpful in explaining the nature and role of the papacy to inquiring non-Catholics?
I’m really not sure.
But we’ll see how it all unfolds.
Okay, put down the screen. Go draw something or read. Pray. Listen to the sounds of the last summer nights. The internet will go on without us.
For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!