Liturgical art is art in service to God and the Church. More accurately it is Sacred Art, set apart for the honor and greater glory of God. Because of its sacrmental character it has the ability to connect us uniquely to the Incarnation and engage us more deeply in the mystery of Salvation. Liturgical Art is an expression of Faith and inspires Faith.
What is a Liturgical Artist?
Commissioning a Liturgical Artist can be a challenging endeavor, especially if your parish has never engaged the services of a liturgical professional. A liturgical Artist creates artwork specifically for use in the Liturgy. He or she can help a community develop designs which are liturgically appropriate as well as artistically beautiful. Such art lends greater dignity to the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries and inspires the heart and mind.
Why should my parish commission a Liturgical Artist?
Vatican II declares that the Liturgy is the focus of all the Church's activity, and the source of all her strength (SC10). Because the Liturgy is so central to our encounter with God, the art and environment in which we worship ought to reflect the dignity and power of the Sacrament. A Liturgical Artist understands these needs and can work closely with your community to develop designs and artwork of enduring quality and spiritual depth. The commissioned imagery will inspire your parish for generations to come, never loosing its artistic value or spiritual strength.
What qualifications should a Liturgical Artist have?
First and foremost a Liturgical Artist MUST have a deep understanding of and committment to the Liturgy. This requires at least some theological and historical background. In addition, the artist should also respect, appreciate and understand the art historical aspects of the Church's Sacramental life. Of course artistic and craftsmanly excellence are also important, but remember, that which makes a Fine Artist does not necessarily make a Liturgical Artist!
What does it mean that a Fine Artist does not necessarily make a good Liturgical Artist? Isn't Art, Art?
No! Liturgical art is emphatically NOT necessarily the same as Fine Art - even the essential meaning and function are different. Fine Art focuses on the creative process and inner vision of the individual artist. Its meaning is purely subjective and functions only on a personal and private level. Liturgical Art celebrates the relationship between God and His people and the dynamic, sacramental engagement of one with the other. It embodies the vision of the corporate People of God and the Gospel of Life. Liturgical Art is an avenue of encounter with God which must engage the entire community, transforming them into the image (icon) of Christ. Its meaning is objective and functions at a communal, archtypal level.
Who certifies Liturgical Artists?
Currently there is no standard certification process for Liturgical Artist. This makes it even more important for a parish to carefully interview and evaluate each artist considered for a project. To do this it is essential that the parish Liturgy Committee familiarise themselves with the principles of good liturgy and liturgical art.
How can our Liturgy Committee become more familiar with the principles of good Liturgy and liturgical art?
The first step is to read and discuss the various Church documents on the Liturgy. The three most essential documents for diocese of the United States are Sacrosanctum Concillium, (Sacred Constitution on the Liturgy, Vatican Council II), the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) and Art and Environment in Catholic Worship (National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1977). These documents are readily available online as well as in print.
How does the cost of true Liturgical Art compare with the items found in church goods catalogs?
It varies, although true Liturgical Art is often more affordable than most parishes realize. Many factors influence the pricing of Sacred Art. Some Liturgical artists are in great demand because of their reputation, style or skill. Others concentrate on certian areas of specialty. Each has their own pricing guidelines and policies, so no general statement can be made about the cost of true Liturgical Art. Mass produced catalog goods have fixed prices and even the high-end "custom" work is no more than manufactured "formula" designs. A Liturgical Artist will generally work with a community's budget and their creations will appreciate in value. Manufactured items generally depreciate in value and often pass out of style in a few years time. True Liturgical Art possesses a timeless quality that will engage your community on a deep spiritual level - and no price can be put on that quality!
Why sould we go through the process of commissioning liturgical art when buying from a catalog is faster?
Which is more valuable and meaningful: an original Rembrandt or the mass produced photo that comes with a picture frame? Catalog art is mass produced "cookie cutter" work often manufactured in sweatshop like conditions. While it is great that the manufacturer is providing employment, the cheap, overpriced trinkets they produce do not do justice to "the focus of all the Church's energy, and the font from which all her power flow" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 10). Furthermore, as the National Conference of Catholic Bishops states in Environment and Art in Catholic Worship "A culture which is oriented to ... production has made us insensitive to the symbolic function of persons and things." (EACW 16). When true liturgical art is available, it is degrading to the essential sanctity of the liturgy to resort to manufactured kitsch.
George R. Hoelzeman is a member of the Association of Consultants for Liturgical Space (ACLS) and International Center for Medieval Studies. He holds degrees in Religion and Art History with further background in Music, Philosophy and Medieval History. Since 1981 he has been active in the liturgical life of the Church as a seminarian, RCIA director, Liturgy director, teacher and Liturgical Artist. The Liturgical Art of G.R. Hoelzeman Studios has recieved national and international awards and has been published in several national publications including Modern Liturgy, Environment and Art Newsletter, and Company.