By Tom Quiner

Beautiful. Transcendent.


I stepped into the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Museum several years ago and got the shock of my life.  The “art”, and I use the term loosely, was ugly.

It was pornographic.

It demeaned.

It was the kind of art that pulls you down into the muck.

What happened to beautiful art?  I’m talking about the kind that lifts the soul, that thrills the senses, that simply “transcends.”  It’s out there.  But most of it was created before the 20th century.

The greatest art ever created was created in the name of Christ.  After all, what can be more beautiful than Jesus Christ?

And yet the Christian world has let the secular world take over the defining and creation of art.

The time has come for a renaissance of Christian art.  The time has come for Christians to become active participants in creating and supporting Godly beauty in the name of art.

Pope Benedict XVI is leading the way.  Did you hear what he did earlier this year?  He invited artists from around the world to meet him at the Sistine Chapel.  The great singer Andrea Bocelli was there, as was award-winning film composer Ennio Morricone.  In all, 250 artists representing different disciplines heard the Pope call on them to “renew the Church’s friendship with the world of art.”

He’s talking to you.  And he’s talking to me.

He’s talking to the third-grader in art class.  Create beauty.  Share beauty.  Absorb beauty.

Think about it.  What are God’s attributes?  Truth.  Goodness.  Beauty.  Beauty is vital to the well-being of our very souls, for beauty is the reflection of God’s truth and goodness.

Let us create art that reflects that kind of beauty.

“Beauty … can become a path toward the transcendent, toward the ultimate mystery, toward God,” says the Pope.

The world will be won by beauty.

No Comments

  1. Michelle on August 24, 2010 at 6:59 am

    Tom, I have to disagree. (with you, for now. I’m not up to taking on the Holy Father this morning) As an art lover, as a human, or course I am drawn to beauty. But aren’t you defining it a little too literally? Jesus didn’t spend his time among the beautiful and perfect people. He healed the sick; the diseased and deformed. He hung out with the sinners. Looking past their surface “ugly” to the perfect faith in their hearts- that is why he healed and transformed them. Did that make them beautiful to look at? I don’t think so. After all, Jesus condemned the Pharisees as “whitewashed” sepulchers- beautiful to look at but full of filth. (Forgive the broad paraphrasing here)

    “Ugly” art is meant to challenge us, to shake up our traditional ideas of “beauty and truth”. To make us uncomfortable and push us towards self-examination. Because what is ugly and imperfect inside us recognizes the ugliness in the art, and it doesn’t feel good. Jesus gave us the same challenge. “Beautiful” art helps us focus and meditate on the perfection of the Divine, but without that other side we lack motivation to move towards it. One goal, two different but equally important paths towards it.

    Just my thoughts 🙂

  2. quinersdiner on August 25, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Michelle: I’m not sure we disagree. I would qualify my use of “ugly” art as art that demeans rather than dignifies; as art whose soul intent is to pull us down rather than reveal truth; as art that objectifies rather than transcends. Beauty and truth can be found in the ugly. In the musical I’m composing right now, “The Pope of the People,” I have written a song based on Pope John Paul II’s visit to Auschwitz. The music is not pretty. The words are painful. But the composer’s intent is to ultimately elevate our soul. The art to which I referred at the Cincinnati Museum of Contemporary Art was ugly because it was so demeaning.

    I appreciate your comments. Keep them coming.



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