On April 23 in the Gentile Gallery, the Fine Arts department hosted artist Anthony Visco to illustrate and speak about the effects of Franciscan spirituality on renaissance-era sacred art, beginning at 7 p.m.
Visco, a Catholic painter and sculptor, showed dozens of images to illustrate how St. Francis’s theology of the Incarnation had a substantial impact on art. He compared crucifixes that depicted Christ as a triumphant king, especially the San Damiano cross, with crucifixes focusing more on Christ’s suffering body, which appeared after Franciscan spirituality.
Visco explained that the theological importance of Christ’s body pushed artists to develop styles dealing with human anatomy, as can be seen in Michelangelo’s Pieta.
“The study of human body in terms of matter, the study of light and shade on opaque form and the study of perspective—those three things came out of art that was devoted to the Incarnation. … These tools are our tools, they are products of a Catholic society,” said Visco.
Franciscan spirituality also personified the natural world in a relational way, which artists could creatively represent. Instead of mythologizing nature as gods, St. Francis wrote the “Canticle of the Sun” to depict a “brother sun” and “sister moon.” Visco also said the saint saw large rock formations and said, “These rocks must have been formed in the suffering of Christ.”
Visco shared pictures of his own artwork, including sculptures of saints and carvings of the Stations of the Cross. He called for Catholics to return to sacred art, especially in the statues and paintings they put in their churches, and for artists to honor the “connection between the viewer and the risen Christ.”
Senior Sarah Brumley said she liked that Visco was “very confident in the truth of sacred art. I loved what he said about the Incarnation, that we need to elevate the unity of the spiritual and the corporeal in order to draw souls upward instead of just dwelling in the cesspool of negativity.”
Senior Lauren Abeyta, a communication arts major, said, “Without even saying it explicitly, I think he conveyed the idea that we need full time artists in the Church and that we need to recover meaning over style – that style and the artist’s personal journey with paint and texture is less important than conveying meaning and the transcendence, presence and witness of the art.”