What is a Catholic Illustrator?

Hi all,
We have touched on this topic in the past without any real discussion so I thought I would open up the topic. I'll spare you a review of my homily for the Fifth Week of Easter and just mention the themes of love and sacrifice. As followers of Christ we are called to love as Jesus loves us, and a Christ-like love always involves sacrifice.
I think this is one of the traits that distinguishes the Catholic artist, or illustrator. We are called to occasionally make sacrifices, sometimes big ones, usually small ones, but what is important is that those sacrifices are made out of love for Christ, His head and His Body.
I'll give you an example of a small sacrifice;
Sacramento is currently hosting the exhibit "Bodies Revealed." It is the second such exhibition in the last few years wherein real human bodies in various states of dissection have been preserved and put on display for public viewing. Now as an artist I am sure it would be very helpful to my art to get such a firsthand experience of human anatomy. But as a Catholic I have to forgo that experience. Not because of the controversy about where the bodies came from, and not because of the discussion about whether it is art, science, or crass commercialism (though both are interesting topics for discussion.)
I have to refrain from attending this exhibit because quite frankly I see it it as an offense against the dignity of the human person. It is inappropriate fir the body of a person, created in the image and likeness of God, to be flayed, dissected, frozen, and put on display for public amusement.
So I am interested in hearing what everyone has to say on the matter, not only on the "Bodies" exhibit but on the idea that to be a Christian artist will involve sacrifice.
Are there opportunities you have turned down, perhaps sacrificing the ability to pay your bills, because you did not feel it was appropriate for you to engage in?
I look forward to hearing your views


Anonymous said...

I appreciate your comments on the exhibit--we had a similar exhibit in Cleveland a few years ago and I felt something was wrong with this. Yes, it does seem to go against the dignity of the human person.

I think too a Catholic illustrator should be committed to expressing beauty. So many of the graphic images around us are just ugly--garish and clashing.


J.R.Howley said...
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Anthony VanArsdale said...

Without a doubt, I think more will be asked of Catholics in the near future. Society seems to be gravitating towards death, but not eternal life. I believe the same exhibit was showing near my home and the way it was advertised - a lot of kids showing interest in crime scene investigation as if life is a movie or television program.

As far as this site - I believe it should keep the direction it's original founders/members intended. From what I can tell, members have always shared both religious and "current" work on the site, and though I think I will be only posting my religious art here (since much of my work is in t-shirts and portraits) I like seeing both. It's what was on the site when I joined. :)

Sonia Jackson said...

I learned of that exhibit while in college, and even talked with someone recently about it, with whom I sometimes have religious discussions (he's not Catholic, but is a recent convert to Christianity). Our society pushes progress without reason, so that includes a certain morbid curiosity without regard to the dignity of the human person. People think anything's okay, often without considering the immorality of it.

I feel similarly offended by most horror films. There is really only one realistic zombie movie that I can stand to watch because it's mostly about survival. Our society is getting used to gore, which is very upsetting.

Regarding being a Catholic artist/illustrator, I made this point before, sort of: if you're Catholic and care enough about your faith, your faith will find its way into your work, even if your imagery is not explicitly religious. Your faith affects your decisions and even your creativity.

I'm interested in seeing others' art/illustration work, both the stuff that depicts religion and the works that don't. That's how you get the full portrait of the individual artist.

Ben Hatke said...

Anatomy is important for most artistic training. But that doesn't make a display of bodies a work of art.

I visited a museum in Florence called La Specola -an old building where they had hundreds of wax models of cadavers, all in different stages of dissection. Some just displayed individual parts. Even though it was all wax it was quite realistic.

It wasn't touted as an "art" exhibit, but as a science exhibit (the also had an array of preserved animals). It was a great, if slightly spooky, place for drawing and study.

Human anatomy is a fascinating, important and wonderful subject. Certainly a must for any serious artist. But I can't seem myself ever being convinced that a display of actual cadavers would be any kind of "art."