Art critique

A critique of art in Haggar

Art in Haggar. Photo by Joey Bremer

If a young man, holding his “Iliad” in one hand and his catechism in the other, was to tour the University of Dallas in 2021, hoping to find a college to take him away from the miseries of high school, he might be baffled at the modern nature of much of the art around campus.

Saint John Paul II said that “through his artistic creativity, man appears more than ever in the image of God”. If we take it at its word, art on campus should uplift someone to piety.

Plato maintained in the “Philébus” that “the power of good has taken refuge in the nature of the beautiful”. Do we distinguish the nature of the beautiful with as much care as the nature of the true?

There is certainly art on campus that uplifts, and there is no shortage of it. Cape Bar is adorned with stunning mosaics, a beautiful 19th century painting of the Holy Family is on the second floor of Haggar, and on the first floor is a print of Noah’s Ark. This list is certainly not exhaustive.

Our future student would undoubtedly be satisfied, if not satisfied, with much of what adorns the walls of Haggar.

Opposite the print of Noah’s Ark, however, is an imposing canvas of mottled and red modernism, which contrasts sharply with the print. Below the beautiful image of the “Sacra Familia” are rows of old student art ranging from Fauvist to Expressionism; all are nevertheless modern.

These pieces find their meaning not in clarity, but in distortion; not in elevation, but confusion. While a few artistic elites may point a finger at the message hidden in the infamous naked blue man with clarinet atop a lumpy tree, those same elites would struggle to find how it rises or reflects.

Does the power of good take refuge in the paint of dead flies on the sleek bathroom tiles?

Opposite the Cape Bar mosaics is a large map of Rome and photographs depicting the Rome semester – undoubtedly an undisputed good addition to Haggar, as it highlights the school’s Italian identity.

Aristotle says that “the purpose of art is not to represent the outward appearance of things, but their inner meaning”, and the art of Cap Bar does not only present the significant experience that our future student is on. point to undertake, but additionally reminds students in the upper class of the significant experience they have had.

But that memory might be disturbed somewhat by the art that adorns the walls of the University of Dallas Police Department.

When they travel to Rome the greatest of Western art is woven into the souls of our students, truly uplifting them, only to come back to Paul McArtney’s head between watermelons! Our art must reflect and pursue what so deeply uplifts students during the Rome experience.

Now, I am in no way claiming that the art on campus should be up to the standards of what we see in Rome. But art that doesn’t elevate the viewer to God, art that doesn’t reflect good, art that doesn’t do anything to reflect inner meaning – it’s not art at all.

Each year, students set up tables in the annex of Haggar to sell their own works. Whether it’s prints, paintings or pottery, the students presenting their work prove that our community is more than capable of producing great work.

UD is full of talented artists who can use their skills to truly uplift the soul. If the good takes refuge in the beautiful, then as a school we should reject distorted modernism and ensure that our art is a suitable vessel for the good and the true.


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