Paint and prayer

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So once Roberta started talking about irony and voice, I’ve been thinking about irony, and that religious art is irony free. Irony is the province of post modernism and the world of galleries, of all-black-clad artists and cool. But religion is not cool, nor is religious art (vis a vis my previous blog posting, the Caratini show, which, while not necessarily about the artist’s religion, is clearly about the artist’s sympathy with the religion, its African roots, and the people who believe).

Furthermore, it seems to me that religious art is alive and well in Philadelphia in the city’s murals. The Mural Arts Program’s director, Jane Golden, is a missionary who believes that art has the power to transform lives–a religious view, a magical view. And the paintings that are going up reflect that belief. Take at look at the ethereal illumination of the young ballplayer in Don Gensler’s “Songs of Hope” (above, right) at 34th and Haverford. Or the angel Gabriel blowing his horn in the guise of a Salvation Army member in John Lewis’ “The Harvest Field,” (detail, left) Broad and Brown. Even the mural of Julius Erving, taller than life, seems to me to quite like the medieval paintings of the holy family or the saints, its power in the larger-than-life promise of a better life to come.

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