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supreme deities and art

updated sat 30 nov 96


Karl P. Platt on mon 4 nov 96

My, now we have a touchy subject.

>For two to threecentury or more Art and religion have gone hand in hand.<

If you want to call the work seen in churches art, then we're actually
looking at a relationship that goes back a whole lot farther than that.
I'm looking here at a slide of a Ptolemaic icon made in glass. "Stained"
glass in christian churches is known to have been around for about 1,100
years. It is assumed that they decorated their churches before that as
well. Probably all manner of ritual vessels in ceramic were used, too.
One might also point to places like Anghor Wat, and many of its kind
which predate the rise of Christianity by several thousand years,
scattered throughout Asia which were designed, built and decorated
strictly for ritual purposes.

I recall talking with a fellow several years ago who on returning from a
protracted trip throughout the far east told me he ultimately found the
art to be utterly boring as it only dealt with religous themes and had
little to say to the current local reality.

Having been raised in the Catholic tradition, I can't say even to this
day that I ever saw much art in a church -- for my part, you can include
the Sistine Chapel in this, too. A lot of beautifully crafted objects,
Yes. Art......I dunno. I mean, if you've seen one morose Mary statue,
you've seen 'em all -- likewise with Buddah statues. However, I do enjoy
the Mexican extrapolation which has Mary all aglow -- solemn though she

Here I always think of Hermann Hesse's Narcissus and Goldmund. After
leaving the cloister of his youth and having led turbulent days out in
the world, near the end of his life Goldmund returned to the cloister
and carved figures of saints which evoked the strongest passions
distilled from his turbulent foray away from the cloister. Goldmund's
powerful work had nothing to do with the church or religon apart from
using the vehicle of religous figures as his vent.

>Singling out a particular religion and blaming IT for genocide and rape of the

But a cogent argument could be made that Christianity has likely caused
more human misery than any other organized religon. We can start this
discussion with the Crusades and take it to these Pentacostal sects I
encountered in West Virginia which proscribe that misbehaving members be
locked up in tiny little huts without refreshment for extended periods
to reflect on their sins. Then there's the cult of guilt the Catholics
and Jews are famous for. This isn't to discourage anyone from being
dedicated to an organized religon, but only to point out that in history
organized religon has as much sordid history as the secular world. That
the Catholics patronized expensive decoration doesn't excuse all those
murdered in the crusades and the absence of art among the Pentacostals
doesn't excuse torture. Maybe this discussion ought to move to a
different topical list.

>It has only be in the last few century that patronage for the Arts has move to

Is this to ignore the Medicis, who certainly indulged the church,
arguably to retain their priveleges as merchants, but who also
subsidized secular works?

It is well to recall that links between the merchant class and the
church (in the western world) were a lot more explicit in days of yore.
Up until the time the Crusades ended the Church held the exclusive right
of usery -- and it was not enforced by tickling with feathers. Yet
lacking cash to pay the returning Crusaders, the Church reckoned it was
better to pay them off with the right to loan money than have a hacked
off bunch of warriors at the gates. From this beginning, the Vatican's
bank has been the most highly insinuated of all -- what was that fable
about money-changers in the temple?

In our time, certainly in the US, the central state has replaced the
church (and family) as the nexus of society almost completely. In this
perspective, one might argue that the NEA has replaced the church as the
central arts patron.

As well, the merchant class now indulges the central state instead of
the church to secure its priveleges -- look at who pays for political
campaigns -- that is, apart from the now, and finally exposed antics of
John Huang.

The class of people who privately indulge art on a grand scale really
hasn't changed at all. The context in which they reside, however, has.

Although in the US, which has featured much more uniform distribution of
wealth than most other places -- at least up until 1972's implementation
of the Kennedy Round of the GATT -- art, in its raw and decorative
forms, have been accessable to a fairly wide body of the population and
have enjoyed wide popular support quite apart from large benefactors.
The ascendance and success of the crafts movement begun in the 60's
emphasize this.

>>I can't see any other subject but Morality (Religion) that invokes more passio

This suggests that morality cannot exist outside of organized religon
and that is a tendentious proposition. Look harder.

>>Please lets not"Jesse Helms" our listing to death.<<

What does Jesse have to do with religon?

>>Numeraphobia was starting to plug up my mail box.<<

But isn't the mathematical elegance of the universe evocative of a grand
unity, too?

KPP -- waxing polemic