Art

Siegel, Lee

sick, several parishioners called to find out how I was doing. I had a hard time welcoming their affection because I have yet to learn how to accept love. I'm not so hot at giving it either, but...

...As for the weird beast, it could very well be sporting a cap--incongruously and eccentrically human--whose dark green appears vaguely along the upper right side of the ladder before fading into the tranquil oblivion above...
...Christ called, and his message was between the words and symbols...
...Yet, after I'd lived long enough to understand that was her intent, she freed me to find my way out of fear with her death-bed command: "Hold on to your religion, boy...
...I pray today's integralists will help me progress toward God, and that it will be through the art of gentle listening and conversation...
...As to hell, I've put that aside because I'm tired of being afraid of a vengeful God...
...Richard A. McCormick, S.J.'s essay "Abortion: The Unexplored Middle Ground" (Second Opinion, March 1989), strikes me as the kind of thinking that's required to meet the tests of our times...
...My life instructs me to worry about what Christ wants rather than what the pro- fessionals who write universal catechisms want...
...I got an inkling of these meanings at the Easter Vigil...
...Instead, I struggle to become gentle...
...But if it does, I believe I'll be given what it takes to cope...
...Liberal, industrialized societies after the war slowly drew closer to the modernist notion of art as the liberation of an imag- ination under siege...
...A little holy nostalgia is good for the soul...
...The work, displayed near the end of the "High and Low: Modern Art and __ __ Popular Culture" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (which ended January 13 and is now moving on to Chicago and Los Angeles) is one of the purest examples of the aesthetic leap toward transcendence so char- acteristic of the time...
...The two contrary trends sometimes exposed and released each other's energies...
...All my concerns about qualifying as a Catholic paled in light of the awesome solemnity of our ancient rituals...
...Really, that wasn't a command.9 It was her last prayer for me, and I am convinced God answered her by bringing me home to the Eucharist...
...Modernism was, in the main, the spiritual antidote to modernity...
...but by the end of World War II, the hydra- headed condition modernity was moving relentlessly forward, and Modernism, one of its heads, had started its gradual tumble into parody and farce...
...The way the church lighted up as we touched our candles to the Pascal fire, the beauty of the vestments, the fragrance of the incense, Scripture read by lectors who had prepared to perfection, the implor- ing prayers in Latin, (Sursum corda/ Habemus ad dominum/), the Exultet sung so fervently, and, amazingly, the congregation responding as if Latin was still the official language...
...And the Eucharist...
...The ladder soars upward, toward a white patch held aloft by a bright red squiggle...
...I'm not so hot at giving it either, but knowing the problem exists is part of the cure...
...I own shares in the Catholic church, and I don't intend to forfeit them for the "warm fuzzies" that come with self-indulgence or the righteously blind obedience of authoritarians...
...As to my fear of death, I accept it...
...But how do these ruminations relate to the concerns that pro- voked this essay, the integralists and my fear of death and hell...
...My mother put the fear of God in me when she spanked me for getting into trouble on the third day of the first grade...
...A dog and a ladder appear on a limitless, dark-brown terrain, against a pitch-black sky of equally infinite depth...
...Study, dialogue, writing, and praying...
...The moon itself mother of dreams--has sprouted a third tip with a bright red ball at the end, like the fruit of subconscious desire...
...The painting's crown- ing touch is its invitation to share a hallucination, to imagine a bark from an improbable looking pooch in an incredible land- scape, a creature whose mouth, if it has one, isn't even open...
...In sum, my life tells me how foolish it is to worship the false God of security...
...Hold on...
...For me, Christ calls me to change my behavior for the greater glory of God, and just being of a mind to try seems like a miracle...
...By the 1960s, art had become a vague pragmatic concept, synonymous with the most potent dream a consumerist society dangles before the radical (though more fragile than rugged) individuals it fabricates and takes aim at: the dream of endlessly exercising your power 96: Commonweal...
...A palette-shaped object, bearing t~e dog's strange assortment of colors, is passing before a half moon...
...And to discern the difference between what I want and what God wants for me, I follow the program I set for myself when I returned to the church...
...The upheaval of conventional perceptions and the embodiment of an invisible realm were central aims of surrealists like Mir6 (1893-1983...
...To hear that in your mind's ear is like scaling the ladder into the painting itself...
...Who can explain the Eucharist...
...As to the integralists, I'm seeking a middle ground...
...ART BANALITIES OF FASHION MODERN ART & POPULAR CULTURE j arely has whimsicality had a profounder heart than in Joan Mirt's 1926 painting, Dog Bark- ing at the Moon...
...My spiritual community helps me feel connected to the human side of our faith, to men and women who stand in witness to a greater truth than any of us could arrive at independently...
...After all, from the moment we are born, we begin to die...
...Yet it was a notion increasingly assimilated to the iconoclastic values of a commercial culture...
...Indeed, with the triumph of materialism and technology, the imagination became no longer the agent but the keeper of the sacred...
...All I can say is that it promises me I shall become innocent again, which, for me, is a glimpse of heaven...
...A line from "Amazing Grace"~ "Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, 'twas grace my fear .9 " Cr reheved --suggests how the miracle might have happened...
...Art, dreams, desire, the Faustian yet workmanlike ladder (the Latin transcendere means, literally, "to climb over")--all are placed over the earthy reddish brown and ethereal black of life and death...
...Other movements of the day--cubism, suprema- tism, neoplasticism, even some currents in Dadaism--also sought, in their different ways, a transcendent dimension...
...I hope death won't hurt too much...
...My concerns about the organized church pale, however, when I reflect on how far I've journeyed on the free ticket provided by my parents' love...

Vol. 118 • February 1991 • No. 3


 
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