Fulfilling a 25-year dream, I drove with two friends from Germany to Colmar, France to visit the Unterlinden Museum and see Matthias Grünewald’s compelling altarpiece from the early 1500s. My undergraduate painting professor Jay Olson first described this painting to me as the most genuine statement of faith an artist had ever painted. It was always his dream to one day see it. John Berger writes in Keeping a Rendezvous about the consequential brutality of this altarpiece as opposed to most Renaissance art which idealizes the body and reduces violence to a romantic gesture like in a John Wayne or Gary Cooper western movie. With grace and honesty, this work does speak to grevious suffering, redemption and the human condition. The skin of Christ and the gestural emotion conveyed in his hands and feet is so exceptional and direct, that you recognize this is where the immanent does meet the transcendent in paint on canvas.
I was in Denver last week and stopped by the Tattered Cover bookstore on east Colfax Avenue. To my great surprise and delight, two books were featured on the table in front of the Art section. The first was by my favorite writer on art, John Berger, and his classic Ways of Seeing, the other was The Lure of the Local by Lucy Lippard which has an art installation of mine featured in it! I can’t believe I was displayed there next to John Berger and with Lucy Lippard, two giants indeed!
Beyond Belief: Theoaesthetics of Just Old-Time Religion? has just been published by Pickwick. I have a chapter in this book which I co-authored with Dr. David O’Hara and based on a course we teach together at Augustana College entitled “Visual Culture and the Sacred: Creative Acts of Resistance and Redemption in Art, Film, and New Media.” Another chapter is by Dan Siedell, who should be read if you are interested in the intersection of liturgy, religion, and art.