Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Would a congregation hire an artist who wasn't of the same faith?

Dome of a catholic church with painted saints. Domo de una iglesia católica con santos pintados. Digital painting by Myriam B. Mahiques

I've seen this discussion before and I know in  history many artists, mostly in painting, could accomplish great jobs even being pagans. From the Editorial of Faith and Form, an excerpt from Michael J. Crosbie to make us reflect on this issue: 

The other day, in the Faith & Form LinkedIn discussion group, a group member brought up the topic of the fealty of those who work with congregations on architecture and art projects. He wanted to know if he might not be considered for a stained-glass commission if the congregation knew he was a Mormon (assuming the congregation wasn't Mormon). An artist who is a Mormon adds another component to the issue, because some denominations don't consider Mormons to be Christians. There are at least two issues here: Would a congregation hire a stained-glass artist who wasn't of the same faith?; would the congregation hire someone they considered some sort of pagan? The first question deals with whether the artist can truly understand the theology of a religion that he or she is not a part of, at least well enough to create art that embodies the beliefs of that religion. The second issue is one of worthiness: should a congregation give work to a “non-believer” when there might be believers who could accomplish the work? In other words, should you reward a non-believer with a commission? Or, to put it another way, is it OK with God? A member of our group commented that you don't have to be a believer to be a talented architect or artist: “Probably the greatest church architect of the 20th century, Bertram Goodhue, was a committed agnostic, if that's not an oxymoron.” Another pointed out that Henri Matisse's Chapel of the Rosary for a community of Dominican nuns in Vence, France, was the achievement of a lapsed Catholic who designed the architecture, art, and everything in it, and then pronounced it his greatest masterpiece. Another member who joined the discussion said that an architect or a designer's religion doesn't matter to her: “Their job is to interpret my building dreams.”

Henri Matisse. Interior of the Chapel of the Rosary, Vence. At left: The Tree of Life, stained glass. At right: St. Dominic, ceramic tiles. 1950. From
Henri Matisse. Interior of the Chapel of the Rosary, Vence. Stained glass at the entrance door. From
California Tower, Balboa Park: by Goodhue in Spanish Colonial Revival style for the Panama–California Exposition (1915).

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