Where bad morals and ugly art meet
Take a deep breath. Sit down in a comfortable chair. Avoid distractions. Ready?
Now, take a good look at this picture on the right!
Don't immediately try to name it, or figure out what it is. That will come later.
For now, just allow the impression of this statue to enter your mind. Ponder it slowly for a moment or two. Don't rush it. (Pause)
Okay, now, what did you see? I really cannot imagine. But I can only tell you what I saw, if you have the patience to listen.
Well, to start with, I saw a trunk-like whitish piece of stone, faded in some areas, with a brass rounded cup on the top that seems to be spilling some liquid down the face of the object. About six feet tall. The background gives a faded stucco look, and the floor and wood sideboard are ultra modern.
Quite honestly, when I first saw it, I could not figure out what it was. Hhmmm, I thought, what could it be?
For a better insight into this object, I tried to find things that I knew that were similar or dissimilar, things that would afford me a frame of reference to understand this object.
Well, let's see -- a mummy? Debris from a construction site? An ancient coffin? A mistake? Spilt milk?
To save you some time and headache, I'll solve the riddle. This is supposed to be a statue of the Blessed Mother. That's right. The Holy Mother of God.
It is located at the chapel of Catholic Jesuit run Seattle University. And it is called Gratia Plena (Full of Grace).
It is made from one single slab of Cararra marble with some gold leafing.
According to the Seattle University website, Steven Heilmer, associate professor of art at Greenville College, in Greenville, Illinois, created the piece and said: "I wanted to take a life-sized block of Cararra marble and carve a flowing stream of milk."
If you and I are in anyway similar, to be told that this object is supposed to be a statue of Our Lady is a shock.
It's different than any statue of Our Lady I have ever seen.
But being different does not bother Fr. Jerry Cobb, S.J., chair of the committee from Seattle University that awarded the job to Heilmer. He said:
"This sculpture will console and challenge both believers and those struggling with their faith. It is a powerful contemporary image of the grace that Mary can be for college students and for our world today. It will provide one more reason for our neighbors and friends to visit campus for prayer and reflection."
Hhmmmm… let me read that again.
"It will provide one more reason for our neighbors and friends to visit campus for prayer and reflection."
Wow! Prayer and reflection... really?
Do you feel inspired to prayer and reflection by this statue? Inspired to prayer, no!
Inspired to reflection, yes! My reflection developed in the form of a question: how in the world did a Catholic Jesuit run University commission such a hideous piece of “sacred art?”
How does the faculty and student body accept this ugly statue as something good and holy?
Something is not right here. And this leads me to my next point: the link between morals and art.
Doctrine, morals and art – self portrait
It's is a well established fact that every society produces art that reflects its values, morals and beliefs. In turn, those same values, morals and beliefs are reinforced and passed on from one generation to another by the art they produce.
Therefore, it is logical to deduce that a Catholic institution of higher learning, such as Seattle University, would adorn its campus with art that reflects its moral values. Right?
Well, unfortunately, at Seattle University students are offered the option of interning for Planned Parenthood of Western Washington on its web site.
But there's more. The Women Studies department at Seattle University encourages students to “get involved” with pro-abortion groups.
The Women Studies web page states: “On the Seattle University Campus, in the Northwest, and across the Nation there are countless women's organizations for you to get involved with. Here are some links to help you get started.”
Under this “get involved” offer, students find pro-abortion groups such as the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority and Legal Momentum.
In the field of morals, students are offered the option to join pro-abortion groups.
In the realm of sacred art, students are introduced to a marble slab wet with spilt milk as ‘Our Lady'.
Bad morals and ugly art are apparent at Seattle University. Coincidence? Or are they linked?
I think so.
In fact, due to the degree of free will involved in both moral behavior and art, it's not difficult to see how morals and art are deeply and inseparably linked.
The Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky wrote:
"Every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions.1"
And Dr. Nanda Dimitrov wrote:
“Art forms do not merely reflect a society and its culture, but also heighten cultural integration by displaying and confirming the values that members of a society hold in common…The arts make dominant cultural themes visible, tangible and thus more real.2”
In my opinion, the “Gratia Plena” statue (Full of Grace) is a visible, concrete expression of the pro-abortion culture at Seattle University.
What do you think?
1. (From On the Spiritual in Art) [back to text]
2 (From Communication Between Cultures, by Larry A. Samovar, Richard E. Porter, Edwin R. McDaniel, page 33.) [back to text]
DAILY QUOTE for July 14, 2020
SAINT OF THE DAY
St. Kateri Tekakwitha
John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about fourteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California