Artist, alumnus says contemporary art portrays a destructive humanity

Carl Fougerousse, artist and Franciscan alum
Carl Fougerousse, artist and Franciscan alum
Photo by Melissa Longua
Artist Carl Fougerousse talks about the history of figurative art, and displays a picture of his sculpture titled “Christ Crucified.”


Carl Fougerousse, artist and alumnus, spoke Wednesday on the historical shift from beatifying the human figure as the central idea in artistic expression to the contemporary perspective that desecrates the nobility of the human figure.

In the Catholic-enriched environment of Franciscan University, the general consensus toward modern media is of an almost comical interpretation. Between its stretched facts and the absence of moral foundation, the media has a hard time escaping the philosophical satire found in many places throughout Franciscan’s campus.

Despite the fun that humor can bring to a situation, Fougerousse shed light on the issue in a more specialized way.

Fougerousse said there are six aspects taken into account when dealing with the centrality of the human figure in art: psychological, biological, philosophical, a response of love, theological and cosmological. Essentially, when these six aspects are present in artistic expression, art and architecture become a place one can successfully contemplate and respond to the concrete, moral world.

“Any art can be misinterpreted, but the idea of much of what tradition passes on is that it ensures that as little as possible is misinterpreted,” said Fougerousse.

This traditional aspect of art is key in explaining this dangerous shift in history. According to Fougerousse, art is a way of passing down humanity from one generation to the next. While this tradition is inherently noble, there is a problem when the destructive portrayal of the human being gets passed down as opposed to the beautiful and dignified portrayal.

Fougerousse commented on this modern obsession with destruction saying, “Critics seem to think there’s certain honesty in that story line. That the tragic figure is somehow honest and truthful and ‘what we all are like’… and we’re worthy of celebration. So there’s a certain element in the public… of gawking at these unsightly things.”

This curiosity with human scandal can be found in the 20th century abstractions of Picasso or of Jackson Pollock, and even in the modern day abomination of pornography. All these things now contribute to the contemporary art world that seems to desperately want to prove that the nobility of the human figure is dead.

Fougerousse left his audience with hope as he talked about the projects of several artists, including his own, in which they are redesigning buildings, mainly churches, to once again portray the beauty of the figure.

Ultimately, Fougerousse believes that much of modern art and architecture has become utilitarian. In other words, a house is no longer a place of dwelling for souls, but simply a shelter used for housing a body. Fougerousse hopes to counter this flawed view of art in reintroducing the traditional values into the world through his work.

Fougerousse lives in Savannah, Georgia, and currently teaches at the Telfair Museum of Art and Armstrong Atlantic State University. He is the founder of Red Fern Stained Glass and Fine Arts Studio where he works as a commissioned artist.

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