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How Great Sacred Art Differs from Great Sacred Subject Matter

Reviewing an exhibit at the NYU Catholic Center, Maureen Mullarkey explains the distinction and why it matters:

With few exceptions, the show confirmed my growing assent to the Orthodox distinction between sacred art and mere secular art with religious subject matter. It illustrated, too, the distance between piety and genius. . . .

However fine, [a featured] drawing remains a copy of part of a painting from the Dutch Golden Age. It is a beautiful rendition of its model, but what distinguishes it as sacred art? Neither subject matter nor an artist’s piety qualifies art as sacred. Technique and touch applied to the rendering of a religious theme do not differ from what would be used to depict any moodily lit, anatomically correct figure in space. . . .

Guiding the selections for [the exhibit] is the assumption that faith is primary in matters of artistic achievement in sacred art. Were that true, this would have been more than the unexceptional exhibit that it is. . . . In commenting on the great periods of religious art in the past, Mark Chagall remarked, “There were good and bad artists even then. The difference did not lie in their piety but in their painterly ability.”

Read more at First Things

More about: Art, Arts & Culture, Orthodox Christianity, Religion, Religious art

Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy