National Catholic Register

Opinion

Art Lesson

BY Jim Cosgrove

March 18-24, 2001 Issue | Posted 3/18/01 at 1:00 PM

 

Art? Artists? Let's discuss these terms. It is high time.

As a Catholic with a master's degree in painting and a bachelor's degree in drawing, I cringe when these terms are used so carelessly as in “German Artists Criticized for Dead Bodies Exhibit” (Feb. 25 - March 3).

I had an instructor at Thomas More College in Northern Kentucky who, for his whole lifetime of hard work in his studio, always referred to himself as a painter. His works were paintings. When one of his students asked whether he was an artist, he answered that that was for history to decide.

Art is something a bit undefinable. It is something beyond the reach of everyday effort. It has everything to do with beauty. It has a lot to do with truth. It is seldom made — especially by someone who decides to make something ugly. For example … let's see … a crucifix in urine, a reproduction of Our Lady with feces thrown on it, and now the body parts of dead people touring Germany for five years and attracting 3 million people. These things are not art. And the folks who made them are not artists.

What's going on? I think it has something to do with art students being taught that they should be creative. So they try to make or do something that has never been done before. They try to shock. Isn't this a mistake? God is the real Creator, and we should pray to be his more perfect instruments: his pencils, his crayons, his paint-brushes, etc.

To sum up: If it isn't beautiful, it isn't art, and the person who made it is not an artist.

JENNY WARD Cincinnati