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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
'Scathing' does not begin to describe this reviewer's takedown of the St. Louis U. art gallery. David Bonetti of the Post-Dispatch builds up a head of steam and doesn't let up in a review that SLUMA won't be posting to its website anytime soon.
Where to begin? At the beginning – and it's all downhill from there:
St. Louis University Museum of Art should do penance for sinfully bad art
Ordinarily, I consider looking at art one of the highest forms of pleasure, but there are times when it can be downright painful. The art at the St. Louis University Museum of Art, I am sad to say, wins the blue ribbon when it comes to inducing painful experiences in me.
To be totally honest, I have never seen so much dross presented as gold in a building that fancies itself a museum. What the heck is going on here? Could this poorly conceived and executed institution be the product of the same church that commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel? Whatever you think of the popes of yore, at least they had good taste - or, perhaps more to the point, good advisers…
Because the primary occupation of a Jesuit is to be a priest, I think it is fair to say that, by definition, the art here is amateur, i.e. not professional, in nature and thus not proper subject for view. Two artists do stand out, however.
The Rev. Dennis McNally makes paintings that might look familiar if you've seen the erotically suggestive sculptures of nubile young men that dot the SLU campus. One work, "The Trinity," features Christ, his mother and St. John, a revision of Catholic dogma that might skirt heresy. According to the church, the Trinity represents the three personae - the father, the son and the holy ghost - that exist within one God. It is the central concept of the Catholic faith, and it does not include Mary or John, the feminist and homoerotic implications of their inclusion notwithstanding.
The other McNally work is a Crucifixion, "After Cimabue," that might be more appropriate hanging in the antechamber of a sadomasochistic dungeon than on the walls of a Jesuit museum. The Rev. McNally shows a hunky Jesus clothed in a loose and surprisingly revealing loincloth…
Upstairs, back to the horrors. There is a sleazy sculpture of a black African woman slave that is offensive in just about every way you can imagine, and there is a trashy painting of a Madonna and Child in the tradition of Murillo via Bouguereau. The predominant tone of the work on view is leering, lightly veiled eroticism.
Oof. Is this a case of a reviewer who got hold of a bad ice cube? Well, you can judge for yourself on Fr. McNally, chairman of fine and performing arts at St. Joseph's University, by visiting his website gallery.
Fr. Sibley will want to fasten his seatbelt and place his tray in the upright position. Caveat: Readers easily offended may wish to skip to the next post.