Religion and Art: Allies or Adversaries? By Brian Kluepfel
In her forthcoming book, Complex Delight: Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750 (University of California Press, 2007), Miles notes a historical demarcation: until the 1700s, the breast, particularly that of Virgin Mary, was a religious symbol. In the post-Renaissance world, she says, the body became an “object of both erotic pleasure and medical use,” objectifying what was once holy. “The conflict is a quarrel over the interpretation of bodies,” Miles said.
Miles defined religious art as “art that offers the viewer orientation in the universe and a consonance with other living beings.” She said that there is a schism between religion and media culture, in which “bodies are a spectacle, a source of medical scrutiny or pleasure and pain.” Miles offered a strong view about what religious art should stand against. Art that reinforces consumerism and capitalist values, she said, is certainly not religious, even if it uses religious imagery (as in television commercials, for example, that use images of Adam and Eve). Return to Inside Fordham home page