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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

 

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Ronald Reagan

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, the consensus was that, with regard to the Soviet Union, two responsible policy choices presented themselves: détente, or a return to the Truman-era policy of containment. Reagan, however, insisted that the USSR’s influence could not just be checked but rolled back, and without massive bloodshed. A decade later, the Soviet empire collapsed entirely. In crafting a policy toward the Islamic Republic today, David Ignatius urges the current president to draw on Reagan’s success:

A serious strategy to roll back Iran would begin with Syria. The U.S. would maintain the strong military position it has established east of the Euphrates and enhance its garrison at Tanf and other points in southern Syria. Trump’s public comments suggest, however, that he wants to pull these troops out, the sooner the better. This would all but assure continued Iranian power in Syria.

Iraq is another key pressure point. The victory of militant Iraqi nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr in [last week’s] elections should worry Tehran as much as Washington. Sadr has quietly developed good relations with Saudi Arabia, and his movement may offer the best chance of maintaining an Arab Iraq as opposed to a Persian-dominated one. But again, that’s assuming that Washington is serious about backing the Saudis in checking Iran’s regional ambitions. . . .

The Arabs, [however], want the U.S. (or Israel) to do the fighting this time. That’s a bad idea for America, for many reasons, but the biggest is that there’s no U.S. political support for a war against Iran. . . .

Rolling back an aggressive rival seems impossible, until someone dares to try it.

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Foreign policy