Artist speaks of danger of art’s trivialization, reminds audience that art leads beyond man


Catholic artist Daniel Mitsui addressed the topic of contemporary religious art and explained the relevance of traditional religious art to today’s society in a lecture Sept. 14 in the Gentile Gallery.

“Art without tradition is pretty, but without deeper meaning; tradition without artistry is like a relic in a cardboard box,” said Mitsui.

Mitsui also shared his personal mission.

“If artistic traditions are buried, then I must find them,” he said.

Guest speaker Daniel Mitsui talks about his painting “Mass of St. Gregory” Monday night during his talk in the Gentile Gallery. (Photo by Grace Duffley)

Now that art is no longer handed down from master to apprentice, Mitsui said he is determined to excavate this trade, stealing it back “like the relic of the true cross.” The day of the lecture was the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which he said holds a special importance for him.

Mitsui stressed that the danger to religious art today is not being lost or destroyed but becoming trivial.

Freshman Emily Flood agreed.

“There’s definitely a loss in reverence,” said Flood. “Art like this can go a long way towards restoring that respect and piety for God.”

This art, said Mitsui, needs to be set above rather than beside man; the subject of art belongs to God, not to man.

He went on to say, “Sacred art and sacred liturgy must be concurrent as they share the same memories.”

These memories were recorded from real events, and just as the liturgy draws from these sources, so does art, he said. Mitsui himself draws from the 13th century especially, describing it as the culmination of religious art and architecture.

In his art, Mitsui said that he employs the use of religious symbols, such as a depiction of a whale in his drawing of the Resurrection, a reference to Jonah’s own three days in the tomb.

“Art is an open window to the spiritual within the confines of its own culture and period,” Mitsui said.

Art aids mankind in pointing to something higher than self, something beyond the mortal things of this world, he said.

“Tradition – art – has a content that comes down to us from the beginning of the church,” said Mitsui. “It doesn’t belong to us. It’s not about self-expression but the history and tradition.”

Mitsui’s talk was sponsored by the Fine Arts Society.