The Roman Catholic artist, from the onset of the religious expression, acts on what possesses his/her mind and heart. Just like the prehistoric man, he paints what preoccupies him. His prowess in conquering the mammoth, capturing the wild deer.
Just like them, at the revelation of God to us, thus it preoccupies the mind, but the prowess now to express the newness of something truly awesome with a vague identity but the cause of powerful feelings.
It is said that St Luke painted The Black Madonna of Czestochowa.
What could have prompted him to do that but the indescribable beauty of the Mother of God. How do I know?? in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, Mary, Miriam has appeared periodically to nudge us to the path of Her Son. Each time, the seer is overwhelmed, virtually speechless, and incapable of describing her beauty. Is it a physical beauty?
Is Blessed Mother a 10??
Could it be the beauty of purity, the greatest creation God has ever made, a pure creature that is Full of Grace??
Her beauty is so multilayered that to describe it physically is to leave out 99% of what the seer sees.
She is the image most venerated in the Catholic world from the 3 century on. The first and oldest church found to date was built in Her honor, a Church dedicated to her even if Her Son is the King of creation and the Son of God. Did they see the same as St Luke saw? the need to put down on something the beauty they perceived in their head and heart??
In the history of art in the Catholic Church, is the need to tell that which is so strong inside, a beauty that is so compelling, but it is not physical. It’s a heavenly beauty that heaven is sharing with us.
The images of the Holy characters are as compelling as their history and had to be put down. Throughout history, evangelization has been a powerful drive instilled in us by Jesus; it carries all who love Him, but the artist….., aahh! He alone has added tools to express that beauty: color, lines and shapes that meagerly describe what he sees in his head.
What I am trying to say is that, the free form of the west gives such liberty to the expression and movement, that it amply expresses the activity and reasons. I can most assuredly say, without data or statistics, that billions have had direct contact with the Mother of God, their pleas heard, their anguish calmed, Her love felt, and their paths lit by praying before an image of her, which did not resemble her, did not move nor spoke, it was a sculpture or a painting that became the visual bridge to her invisible presence.
It served a perfect purpose of teaching, venerating and providing the transitional step to put in touch the person with soulful prayer and the God who calls. It is God’s plan to create the artist to use him as the one to illustrate his mind, to speak contemporaneously of what He, God, wishes to say.
But the 19th and 20th century broke all speed braking away from the inspiration of God. Modern society illustrates that breakage. The spirit that is using the artist is expressing chaos and anarchy. And chaos and anarchy is immortalized by the artist for history’s sake.
We, humans, are visual creatures; we need visual aids to connect with the invisible. We need the artist to show us what God is trying to say. We need holiness and prayerfulness to be conduits of God’s thoughts, His commands and directions. His promises.
The most perfect example, I can give of the expression of God’s mind, His directions, His promise, His self image, His passion one more time, His eagerness to reach us, His carnal envoy, His Son, in this modern time, when evangelization is virtually a thing of the past, He sends His own image via a Polish artist, pressed by a virtually unlearned nun to paint an image she saw, and the artist was supposed to make Jesus as though looking down towards us, as though from the Cross…. arm in blessing…. no higher than His shoulder…..in a priestly vestment…..one foot forward as if forward motion….. same general description as an orthodox icon. Though this poor nun, St Faustina Kowalska cried inconsolably, lamenting who would make Him as beautiful as He is, that image, known as the Divine Mercy image has caused on the average of 55, 000 miracles per month to happen, as noted by the National Shrine of Divine Mercy. .
This image saved thousands in the Japan tsunami, in the bombings during the WWII, a boy inside a car in flames falling 900 ft. off a mountain, a man’s heart with only hours to live.
An artist, who illustrated the mind of our Merciful God on canvas with just oil paints, becomes a miracle of God’s protective love for us. An image of Himself done by an artist, moved by a feeling inside, his own prowess now to express the newness of something truly awesome with a vague identity but causing powerful feelings.
God did not give us something by His Own Hand to show His love nor His power, but He spoke and He speaks through the hand of his instrument: an artist.
Excerpts from the article “Let us do something beautiful for God” by Yolanda Bello