Black Lives, Black Art

sedrick-huckaby-glory-to-glory

Sedrick Huckaby. From Glory to Glory, 2016. Oil on canvas on panel. 80 x 30 inches.

I happened to be re-reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin when the current issue of Image (#90) arrived in the mail. So I was especially interested in Joe Milazzo’s essay on the work of African American artist Sedrick Huckaby.

In Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1851 novel, even the kindest and most compassionate white people refer to their slaves as “articles.” The less kind whites simply assume that “n*****s” are “property.” The sale of this property is big business, and “traders” (as they call their profession) separate husbands from wives, children from parents, without any more moral awareness than you’d have in separating perennials in your garden. [Read more…]

A Love Supreme: The Surprising Art of Sedrick Huckaby

This essay is a web exclusive accompanying Image journal’s current issue, #90.

 By Bruce Herman

web_filthy-rags-of-splendor-for-herman-web-exclusiveHomely, decorative, domestic—that’s how most of us think of quilting: something a sweet grandmother does while humming an old tune and waiting for a pie to cool on the rack. It’s a comfy-seeming practice we associate with homemaking and mothering—vocations mostly overlooked and never accorded the worldly esteem we give to the artist, composer, intellectual, or CEO.

But of course we all know that it is mothers and grandmothers who carve out large spaces in their lives to nourish and raise us and set us free to write, paint, dance, read, play our music, or rule a great nation. Without mothers, we perish, yet they are routinely sidelined. We roll our eyes at their sentimentality and protective nagging. [Read more…]

What We Talk About When We Talk About Beauty

fons-heijnsbroek-abstract-sescape-and-diagonal-on-flickrI have beauty on the mind. No doubt a result of my ongoing debate with Gregory Wolfe (running into its fourth iteration now). We’ve been chatting, lo these many weeks, about the relevance of the religious voice to contemporary debates on aesthetical matters.

When you’re talking about aesthetics, the question of beauty tends to rear its head sooner or later. This can be a scary moment. That’s because it’s hard to talk about beauty—hard, even, to define in any satisfying way what beauty is. Give it a go yourself if you don’t believe me. Define beauty. [Read more…]

The Debate About Beauty

Kazimir_Malevich,_1915,_Black_Suprematic_Square,_oil_on_linen_canvas,_79.5_x_79.5_cm,_Tretyakov_Gallery,_Moscow I’ve been engaged in an ongoing wrangle with Gregory Wolfe about the status of Christian intellectuals in the public sphere. We got a bit stuck on the question of T.S. Eliot and the worthiness of New Criticism. Mr. Wolfe has helped to un-stick the conversation with a rather devastating reply to my last post.

Pointing out that Eliot wrote his earlier critical works before he’d become a practicing Christian, Wolfe noted that by the time of Four Quartets “Eliot’s perspective had changed a great deal.”

His own childhood, family history, and other personal experiences become central to the poem’s meaning—indeed, become the names of the four sections. Eliot is incarnate in this poem but more importantly, his shift in 4Q, perhaps influenced by Maritain or in tandem with Maritain, signaled a growing awareness by mid-century Christian intellectuals that the modern “self” could not simply be ditched.

I acknowledge defeat. I was trying to fit Eliot into a tight box of anti-incarnational thinking in order to make my greater point, which was that Eliot is responsible for the intellectual and theological failures of New Criticism. In fact, Eliot—both as thinker and as poet—is too complex and rich a figure to be diminished and stuffed into such a restrictive box. [Read more…]

Imitating the Saints

Heaven's gatesSt. Therese once wished aloud that her own mother would die. When her mother scolded her, Therese explained that then she could sooner go to heaven.

My children received this anecdote with perverse joy, telling their siblings to jump off a bridge, run out in the street, and let go of the tree branch…that you may sooner see paradise, of course.

Given a choice between heaven and hell, they will gladly choose heaven. But faced with a choice between heaven and earth, they start hedging: Are there Legos in heaven? Who’s going to be there? Is the music any good? Why do they have a gate that keeps all the fun people out?

They’ve already noticed the problem that villains are usually the most interesting character in any novel or movie. It’s far more troubling to envision characters who are not completely wicked, characters who struggle with temptation but don’t succumb.

I tend to love my heroes too much to attribute them with serious flaws. Or I imagine there is a class of unsullied souls, anointed souls who somehow, magically, don’t sin. They may have sinned in the past, but no more. They meet Jesus, they fall off their horse, or maybe they’re just born with an incredible endowment of piety, and sin can’t touch them. A heaven full of such insufferable people really doesn’t sound appealing. [Read more…]