Still today it is striking to see to what degree artistic impotence is connected to the absence of the sacred.
–Régine Pernoud, Those Terrible Middle Ages
I agree 100,000%!
I’m not saying that all art must be pictures of the Most Holy Trinity or of saints and martyrs! But with Modernism and Postmodernism in the last century, humanity has witnessed a deconstruction of what had been known about art since “cave” times: that the purpose of any work of art is to express “the transcendent,” as Miss Pernoud put it.
Have you ever seen any of the works of the American painter Jackson Pollock? To me, his “paintings” symbolize the very worst of what happened to art in the 20th century, the destruction that ravaged sculpture, architecture, literature, music, even the sacred arts, and worst of all the Sacred Liturgy. I don’t know what Mr. Pollock was trying to express, but it’s certainly not transcendent: his work is utterly repulsive to those who seek the truth, goodness, and beauty of human art.
For years I’ve had to hear the constantly-repeated lie that “self-expression” is the basis of art–any self-expression is good by its nature and we have to recognize that as “art.” No. Absolutely flagrant falsehood. Art is what expresses something of the transcendental qualities of truth, goodness, and beauty. No, I was not taught that in my college Art History class, but it is the truth of the ages.
There are no two ways about this. Whether it is a bronze sculpture of a tree, or a symphony, or an ancient basilica, we know art when we see it–calling dribble of paint on a canvas “art” is a disgusting sham. Particularly after the insights I’ve gained from Régine Pernoud’s wonderful book, I’m not buying it anymore, and I hope you don’t either. Never be afraid to be the child in Hans Christian Anderson’s story The Emperor’s New Clothes, who was too smart to not tell it like it is, even when it was politically incorrect. He has always been one of my heroes!