A Strange Place Still? Religion in Contemporary Art 

by ASCHA Scholars

The Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art (ASCHA)
in partnership with the Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts (CCCA)
present a one-day symposium:

A Strange Place Still? Religion in Contemporary Art 

More than a decade has passed since James Elkins’ On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art first appeared, wherein the critic claimed that the art world “can accept a wide range of ‘religious’ art by people who hate religion, by people who are deeply uncertain about it, by the disgruntled and the disaffected and the skeptical, but there is no place for artists who express straightforward, ordinary religious faith.” There is, the critic argued in 2004, a general tendency within the art world to see art that invokes religion in anything but a critical or derisive way as retrograde and reactionary. This was shot across the bow of academic art history, a challenge to the profession to answer for its aversion to one of the most significant dimensions of human diversity – faith and religious expression. “[T]he absence of openly religious art from modern art museums,” Elkins further contended, “would seem to be due to the prejudices of a coterie of academic writers who have become unable to acknowledge what has always been apparent: art and religion are entwined.” Yet much has changed since these remarks were made. Artists, art historians, critics, and curators have vigorously challenged the assumed secularism of institutional art history, and a generation of scholarship and exhibition has developed that resists the skepticism that can still come when religion is a topic of discussion in the academy. This one-day symposium brings together scholars and arts professionals to explore the rich place of the sacred in contemporary visual culture, with the aim of contributing to a vibrant field that has begun meaningfully to address art’s engagement with religion. 

Introduction to Symposium
Rachel Hostetter Smith, PhD, Gilkison Professor of Art History, Taylor University, Upland, IN
Ronald R. Bernier, PhD, Professor and Chair, Humanities and Social Sciences, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Boston, MA

Keynote: “Postsecularity and the Return of Religion in Contemporary Art Criticism”
Jonathan A. Anderson, MFA, Associate Professor of Art, Biola University, La Mirada, CA

“More Than The Eye Can See: The Means and Ends of Visualizing the Sacred in the Art of Tim Rollins and K.O.S.”
James Romaine, PhD, Associate Professor of Art History, Lander University, Greenwood, SC

“Religion and the Art of State Violence: Doris Salcedo’s Neither
Stephen S. Bush, PhD, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Brown University, Providence, RI

“Taming the Invisible: Video Art in Search of the Word’s New Faces”
Jorge Sebastián-Lozano, PhD, Assistant Professor, Universitat de València and Research Fellow of Real Colegio Complutense at Harvard University in Spring 2017

“Performativity and the Flesh: The Economy of the Icon in Lia Chavez’s Light Body
Julie Hamilton, Art Editor, The Other Journal

“Exploring Theological Dimensions of the Aesthetic Object: Art Historical Methodologies”
Linda Stratford, PhD, Professor of Art History and History, Asbury University, Wilmore, KY

“Towards a Global Theology of Art”
Steven Félix-Jäger, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Southeastern University and Polk State College, Lakeland, FL


"From Making to Understanding, An Artistic Interpretation of the Commandment: We will Do and (Then) We Will Hear."
Ben Schachter, Professor at Saint Vincent College, La Trobe, PA

The Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art (ASCHA) is dedicated to the facilitation and promotion of new and rigorous scholarship that examines the historical and contemporary relationship between Christianity and the visual arts. ASCHA is international, non-partisan, and ecumenical in its reach; they invite the participation of scholars of all or no personal faith persuasions. ASCHA encourages the critical study of Christianity and the visual arts as that relationship is diversely manifested in all historical periods and world cultures. 

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