4 years ago

Five Faves #8: Marian Art + my Two Cents On the Danger Of Being an Artist

I’ve been browsing Marian art lately, trying to find present-day artists as well as art that I’ve never come across before.

For me, it’s a serious treasure to come across a new-to-me piece of art from a favorite artist, even (and sometimes, (especially) if it’s just a sketch or a study.  However, the insanely frustrating event occurs in which I find a work which is not titled, nor signed. There are two, beautiful icon-ish pieces I’ve seen floating around Pinterest, but with no credit to the artist. MADDENING.
Coincidentally, Icons and Iconography has also been catching my eye more now than ever before.
I discovered something fascinating about the method of iconography which a Christian artist tries to align him/herself:

That the actual method of creating an icon is supposed to be a prayer itself, from inside the artist and out.  The work is not signed by the artist, as an act of humility and glorification to God.
If you know anything about an artist, it’s that he or she lurrrrves her own signature. I know this firsthand.  Being able to create a work of art and put my name on it comes with a satisfying self-fulfillment.
“I DID THAT,” we say, when we sign a piece of art.

So, for an artist to just leave a beautiful piece of art, which she created with her own two hands, unsigned, is quite a feat.

As I’ve briefly touched upon before, I have an issue with artists and the self-aggrandizing: the praise; in some cases, a groupie following which is certain to arise when he or she is particularly talented; the strange authority that artists of beauty seem to hold over society.
I don’t view this as necessarily bad.  However, in trying to understand human nature –fallen human nature- I recognize the innate desire to be loved, as well as a misguided search for the superficial, empty kind of love one might call fame.

So to be praised and loved for my works of beauty has the ability become a sort of a death trap to a selfish kind of admiration which places me in a dangerous situation. …if I am not vigilant against it. The problem with that is, being admired by lots of people feels pretty excellent. And so what we then have is an addiction. An addiction to this recognition and praise for the things I can create.  It doesn’t last long, and so then we have to create more and more and more. And in modern art, we’ll have artists creating “art for art’s sake” … but I contend that it’s actually “ART FOR THE ARTIST’S SAKE”, with the shocking grotesqueness, the repulsive, the “Piss Christ” kind of art.  You see, it gets people talking. And if they’re talking about me, then I’ve fulfilled my addicted self-loving high, haven’t I?

As a student in art school, the distinction between a talented artist and a not-so gifted one was always quite clear:

At the end of the day, art speaks for itself.

When the artist does not recognize the need for humility, the need to accredit his or her talent as a God-given gift, that’s when we have trouble.  The trouble doesn’t necessarily affect second parties.  No, the artist alone can poison himself to his artistic gift and in the most extreme case, he can become a sort of personal god.
So there’s my bit about being an artist.
This is why I’ve written: “Art for God, not art for art’s sake.”
I think simply knowing this distinction makes all the difference for any artist, trying to live in the Light of Christ.

Okay, whatever Carolyn. Yeah drone dronedronedronedrone.  If anyone really likes talking about this stuff, I’ve got more to say. My point is that I’m fascinated by iconography and the prayerful, humble method of creating.
I hope to have the means and time in the future to try my hand in it.

Here are 5 of my favorite Marian works. 

I’d love prints of each one.  But for now, my iPhone background will have to do:


Enric Monserday Vidal. This is my Pin from Pinterest, and there’s no proper source listed. So I don’t even know in what church this is found, and I haven’t taken the time to dig further. If anyone knows, lay it on meh.


Another Pin, though it links to an ETSY SHOP! This is a Memorare card- one of my favorite prayers (though the wording is slightly different from how I recite it)


“The Prophetic Flight” Ned Ostendorf. source: http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/gallery/NOstendorf/subpage7.html

This artist I knew personally. Deacon Ned Ostendorf is someone I’ve grown up looking to as a beautiful example of a Christian Artist.  He passed away a few years ago, leaving behind a treasure of works that were displayed in the University of Dayton’s art Gallery last month.  Deacon Ned and his still living wife have been close friends/spiritual mentors of my parents for many years.  In “the Prophetic Flight” Dec. Ned depicts the biblical flight of Joseph, Mary, and newborn Jesus from King Herod.  The observant eye might find the profile of Herod amongst the clouds, symbolizing the shadow of danger from with the Holy Family flees. This information is courtesy of the University of Dayton.


Virgin of the Angels, Adolphe-William Bouguereau, 1881, post-conservation. Image via: getty.edu

Bouguereau is one of my favorite artists for his depictions of the Blessed Mother. Need I count the ways?


Another Bouguereau, a biblical reflection of Revelation.

I adore the rich color palette chosen for these pieces. I might dedicate a post detailing what I read inside the works themselves: the choice to depict Mary holding the vulnerable, fully human, yet fully God, Infant Jesus; the way the Virgin Mother stares at us with eyes that always seem intensely solemn, perhaps asking the Church militant, “Will you now shoulder the Christian duty, for my dearly beloved Son?”; the significance of the color choices themselves… but not today. Cause if I have’t lost you yet, that definitely would bore you out of your gourd.
This is a late link-up with Hallie and her 5 Favorites.  Go see what she’s up to!

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