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Interpreting Christian Art

Interpreting Christian Art

Pruit Memorial Symposium
Thursday, October 26 - Saturday, October 28, 2000

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Program Description

Since the iconoclastic controversies of the eighth and ninth centuries, the visual arts have been the subject of much ecclesiastical discussion and contention. In particular, since the mid-1960s Protestant scholars and clergy have been paying more attention to the potential role of the visual arts in the theology and liturgy of the Christian church. As a result, numerous programs were begun under a variety of nomenclature, e.g., Religion and the Arts, Theology and the Arts, etc. Despite the success of these endeavors, two basic problems have persisted that this sypmosium hopes to address.

The first problem is an academic one. Theologians working in the visual arts often did so without recourse to the work of the art historian, and they sometimes presented an a-historical reading of the iconography of a work or misconstrued the historical context in which the image was produced. Art historians, on the other hand, have often been reluctant to explore the theological issues involved in the iconography of a work of sacred art or have deliberately avoided exploring the hermeneutical implications for the contemporary faith community. There are, of course, notable exceptions. One thinks of the work of Jaraslov Pelikan or Margaret Miles, on the one hand, and Creighton Gilbert, on the other, but they remain exceptions.

The second problem is ecclesiastical. With few exceptions and for obvious reasons, Protestants of the free church tradition have been slow to appropriate the developments in theology and the arts. The unfortunate result has been a significant segment of contemporary Christianity, that is largely uninformed and at times suspicious of the visual aspects of the Christian tradition. Therefore, this conference on "Interpreting Christian Art," is designed not only to engage art historians and theologians in dialogue, but to include Baylor students as well as clergy and laity of the free church tradition in the discussion.


Speakers

Charles Barber

Dr. Barber received his doctorate from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. He currently holds the Michael P. Grace Assistant Professorship in Art History at the University of Notre Dame, where he teaches Medieval Art History.

Dr. Barber has expertise in Medieval Art and Byzantine Studies. He has written numerous books and articles in these fields, including his most recent publication, Memory and Desire: On the Limits of Representation in Byzantine Iconoclasm. In addition, Dr. Barber is currently writing a book entitled Mimesis in Byzantium, a work that examines the place of imagery within the spiritual life of ninth- and tenth-century Byzantine monasticism.

Paolo Berdini

Dr. Berdini received his doctorate in the History of Art from Columbia University in 1994 after completing a Master of Arts in the History of Architecture and Urban Design at Cornell University and a Master of Science in the History of Architecture at The Pennsylvania State University.

A leading figure in the field of Art History, Dr. Berdini has done extensive research in the work of Michelangelo and Jacopo Bassano. He is the author of Painting as Visual Exegesis: The Religious Art of Jacopo Bassano, as well as a variety of other articles and books that deal with the relationship between religious faith and art.

Dr. Berdini holds a permanent position in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University, where he also has an appointment in the Department of French and Italian. He is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History at Harvard University.

John Wesley Cook

John Wesley Cook received the Master of Divinity, Master of Philosophy and the Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Yale University. Dr. Cook's undergraduate degree is from Baylor University.

Prior to taking his current place as the president of the Henry Luce Foundation in September of 1992, Cook served as the director of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Worship and the Arts, as well as Professor of Religion and the Arts at Yale. In 1996, Cook was the Deneke lecturer at Oxford on twentieth-century art, and in 1998, the Hussey lecturer at Oxford on sacred art.

Cook has displayed a deep commitment to the exploration of the relationship between art and religion in his authorship of such books as Conversations with Architects, The Study of Art as Theology, and his most current manuscript, "A Theology of Light in Architecture."

Anthony Cutler

Receiving his doctorate in Art History from Emory University, Dr. Cutler is currently a Research Professor of Art History at The Pennsylvania State University, where he has taught since 1967. Dr. Cutler has been repeatedly named Fellow of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections, Harvard University. In addition, Dr. Cutler is the 1999-2000 Paul Mellon Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts.

Dr. Cutler specializes in the art and art history of Byzantium. His investigations into imagery and iconography in Byzantine art have led to the publication of numerous books and articles, including Transfigurations: Studies in the Dynamics of Byzantine Iconography and Imagery and Ideology in Byzantine Art.

Heidi J. Hornik

Dr. Heidi J. Hornik is Associate Professor of Art History and Director of the Martin Museum of Art at Baylor University. Dr. Hornik received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University and her Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from The Pennsylvania State University.

Dr. Hornik's areas of expertise are Italian Renaissance and Baroque art history. She has published a number of articles on Renaissance art and architecture, and has conducted extensive research in the archives of Florence. Currently, Dr. Hornik, in collaboration with Mikeal C. Parsons is working on a three-volume interdisciplinary study of the visual representation of subjects unique to the Gospel of Luke painted during the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods. The first volume, Illuminating Luke: The Infancy Narratives, is under review for publication. Dr. Hornik also serves as the Art Editor for the Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary series.

Robin M. Jensen

After completing both her Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy degrees, Dr. Jensen received her doctorate in the History of Christianity from Columbia University/Union Theological Seminary. She is currently an Associate Professor of the History of Christianity, as well as the Director of the Theology and the Arts Program at Andover Newton Theological School. In addition, Dr. Jensen holds an adjunct position in the Department of Theology at Boston College.

Dr. Jensen specializes in the literature of the early Christian church and the history of worship and liturgy. She has published several books and a number of articles, including her most recent, Understanding Christian Art. She has also made contributions to several multi-authored volumes on the subject, and is currently in the process of finishing another book that explores a theological interpretation of religious imagery entitled Living Water: The Symbols and Settings of Early Christian Baptism.

Margaret R. Miles

After receiving her doctorate in History from Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, Dr. Miles taught for 18 years at Harvard Divinity School, where she was appointed Bussey Professor of Historical Theology and served as Chairperson of the Department of Theology. She currently holds the John Dillenberger Chair in Historical Theology at Graduate Theological Union, where she is also the Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Dr. Miles served as the President of the American Academy of Religion from 1998-1999.

Throughout her teaching career, Dr. Miles has pursued a variety of religious and theological topics and challenged scholars to view the historical record from new perspectives. As a trained art historian and historical theologian, Dr. Miles has explored the theological issues involved in the iconography of a work of sacred art and the hermeneutical implications for the contemporary faith community.

Dr. Miles has produced much scholarship on art, religious history, critical theory, and contemporary culture. Some of her publications include Image as Insight: Visual Understanding in Western Christianity and Social Reality, Plotinus on Body and Beauty: Society, Philosophy and Religion in Third Century Rome, and Desire and Delight: A New Reading of Augustine's Confessions.

Mikeal C. Parsons

Currently an Associate Professor of Religion at Baylor University, Dr. Parsons received his Doctor of Philosophy and his Master of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Dr. Parsons has research interests in the areas of literary/biblical criticism and interpretation of the New Testament. He has published a series of books and articles on related topics, including The Departure of Jesus in Luke-Acts: The Ascension Narratives in Context, Commentary on Luke, and currently with Heidi J. Hornik, Illuminating Luke: Themes from the Annunciation to the Ascension in Italian Renaissance and Baroque Art.

He is also the Assistant Editor for the forthcoming third edition of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature and one of three lead researchers developing a computer-based lexicon of the New Testament.

Graydon Snyder

Dr. Snyder retired from Chicago Theological Seminary in 1999, where he had served as the Dean of the Faculty and Professor of New Testament since 1986. Dr. Snyder formerly held the Wieand Chair of New Testament Studies at Bethany Theological Seminary, where he was named Dean of the Seminary in 1975. He received his Doctor of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Dr. Snyder's academic contributions are many. A few of his most recent publications include Inculturation of the Jesus Tradition: The Impact of Jesus on Jewish and Roman Cultures and Putting Body and Soul Together, which he co-edited.


Schedule

Thursday, October 26, 2000

7:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Keynote Address, Dr. Margaret R. Miles, Graduate Theological Union: Achieving the Christian Body: Visual Incentives to Imitation of Christ in the Christian West

Friday, October 27, 2000

10:00 to 12:00 a.m.

  • Dr. Graydon Snyder, Chicago Theological Seminatry: Agape, Eucharist, and Sacrifice in Early Christian Art
  • Dr. Robin M. Jensen, Andover Newton Theological School: Disgrace or Desire? The Problem of Adam and Eve in Early Christian Art

2:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Plenary Address, Dr. Anthony Cutler, Penn State University: The Image of the Word in Byzantium and Islam

3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

  • Dr. Charles Barber, University of Notre Dame: On Being Useful: Body and Art in Ninth-Century Byzantium
  • Dr. Paolo Berdini, Stanford University: Visual Exegesis in Renaissance Art

Saturday, October 28, 2000

9:00 to 10:00 a.m.

Drs. Mikeal C. Parsons and Heidi J. Hornik, Baylor University: Luke and Pontormo: The Visitation, SS. Annunziata, Florence

10:15 to 11:15 a.m.

Plenary Address, Dr. John Wesley Cook, The Henry Luce Foundation: What Is Christian about Christian Art?