Sunday, September 9, 2012

Another Inspired Consideration

The interior dome in St. Peter's, Vatican City
In thinking about where some of my interests intersect, the idea of spirituality and religion in art and art education kept popping into my head. I am not necessarily a religious person, but religion has certainly been a large part of my life. I was raised Lutheran and went to a Lutheran high school. My family is fairly active in the Lutheran church, and my aunt and uncle were Lutheran school teachers. I taught at three different Catholic elementary schools. Much (all?) of the artwork of the Renaissance and Baroque that I studied in Italy was made for religious purposes. Teaching art appreciation for ten years has given me a great overview of the impact of religion on art through different cultures and traditions.

View of Minaret in Fes
Last year, I traveled with sixteen post-secondary educators to Morocco and Tunisia as part of a Fulbright Hays program focused on the religious diversity of the Maghreb. We visited religious institutions such as mosques, churches, and synagogues, and attended lectures on Judaism and Islam. Surprisingly, in the six weeks we were in the two countries, religious art and architecture were not a focus of the curriculum. I wrote a blog (my first one)-  Patterns of Complexity -  that relates to this experience. I wrote a curriculum project (a requirement of the trip) also entitled Patterns of Complexity: The Art and Design of Morocco and Tunisia that includes links to a 200 slide PowerPoint and to a number of two-page visual handouts on architecture and studio arts. I also have a photostream on Flickr of over a thousand of my favorite images from the trip. These travels were energizing, eye-opening, and transformative.

For me, a culture's greatest religious expression is in the visual arts. Narrative paintings and reliefs have taught many believers in a variety of religions for thousands of years. Many of the iconic buildings in history were built for religious purposes. Once the modern era began, religious artwork and architecture were overshadowed by the secular. However, some modern and contemporary artists have included, have guided by, or have pointedly rejected religious or spiritual practices, such as Rothko's Chapel in Houston, Kandinsky's book Concerning the Spiritual in Art, and the collaborative work by Roberto Sifuentes and Guillermo Gomez-Pena in Temple of Confessions.

Regardless of religious affiliation or current practices, each individual is guided by belief systems which may be associated with spirituality. I am fascinated by how this manifests in art, education, and practice. 

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