What do you really know about art? If you’re like me, not nearly enough. Cultured Catholic men often explore Gregorian chant and liturgical music to enrich their spiritual lives. When it comes to sacred art, however, we tend to relegate the visual to museums and churches. This is a mistake. For that reason, I can’t recommend Jonathan Pageau’s presentation, Sacred Art in Secular Terms, enough. Pageau is an Orthodox iconographer who found some degree of YouTube notoriety as a result of his collaborative relationship with Dr. Jordan Peterson. He presented this talk at the Northwest Catholic Family Education Center last year.
The lecture is fascinating on multiple fronts. It lays out a brief history of the decline and collapse of nihilistic, contemporary art, and highlights the renaissance of liturgical art in Orthodox countries. Pageau also discusses the paradox of conservatism/Christianity becoming the countercultural, his personal transformation as artist in Africa, and the glory of the much maligned Middle Ages.
As Patrick Coffin remarked offhand during his recent interview with Peterson, “the Orthodox are kicking our asses” when it comes to art. Pageau’s presentation certainly leaves the viewer with that impression. Let’s pray Catholic art also experiences a similar renaissance in the West. Postmodernity is certainly inviting such an outcome. As fashionable “art” collapses into farcical degeneracy and complete irrelevance, the opportunity for sacred art to recapture the soul of the West presents itself like never before.
What can we do to help fill the current void? I intend to study the artists mentioned by Pageau (several are sampled below), share their creations, and support liturgical artists whenever possible by purchasing their work. More importantly, I intend to better incorporate liturgical art into my own spiritual life. So much beauty is at our fingertips at any given moment. All too often we fail to seek it out, much less inject it into our surroundings and share it with the world. As Dostoevsky prophetically remarked, “beauty will save the world.”