A Symposium of the Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art (ASCHA)






A Strange Place Still? Religion in Contemporary Art

A Symposium

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 in New York City


It has been nearly a decade and a half since James Elkins’s popular study, On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art, first appeared, where, in his introductory remarks, the critic and art historian summed up his sense of professional unease in pursuing his topic: “For people in my profession of art history, “ he confessed, “the very fact that I have written this book may be enough to cast me into a dubious category of fallen and marginal historians who somehow don’t get modernism or postmodernism.”  The art world, he claimed, “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.  But the academy was not Elkins’s only target: “[T]he absence of openly religious art from modern art museums,” he 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.”


Much has changed since these remarks were made.  Artists, art historians, critics, and curators have vigorously challenged the assumed secularism of institutional art history—what Sally M. Promey described and debunked as the “secularization theory of modernity” which contends that “modernism necessarily leads to religion’s decline, and the secular and the religious will not coexist in the modern world.”  Coexist they have and continue to do, and a generation of scholarship and exhibition has developed that forcefully resists the pervasive skepticism that can still come when religion is a topic of discussion in the academy.


The symposium will take place on Tuesday, February 14 at The Union League Club at 37th Street and Park Avenue in New York, NY, one day prior to the CAA’s annual conference. It is sponsored by the Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art with the generous support of Taylor University and the Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts.




Early Registration (before February 1): $35

 Late and On-site Registration: $40

 Students with Valid Institutional ID: $25


Registration includes coffee and light refreshments at breaks.


Please be advised that business casual dress is required for admittance to The Union League Club. See ULC House Rules at UnionLeagueClub.org for more specific information.


This event will take place the day before the February 15 start of the annual conference of the College Art Association (Conference.CollegeArt.org/2017).






Arrival and On-site Registration


Welcome and Introduction



Rachel Hostetter Smith, PhD


Ronald R. Bernier, PhD


Keynote Address


Jonathan Anderson, MFA

Postsecularity and the Return of Religion in Contemporary Art Criticism

Associate Professor of Art, Biola University


Coffee Break



Session I


James Romaine, PhD

More Than The Eye Can See: The Means and Ends of Visualizing the Sacred in the Art of Tim Rollins and K.O.S.

Associate Professor of Art History, Lander University


Stephen S. Bush, PhD

Religion and the Art of State Violence: Andy Warhol’s Last Supper series and Doris Salcedo’s Neither

Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Brown University




A list of nearby restaurants will be provided to all attendees.


Session 2


Jorge Sebastián-Lozano, PhD

Taming the Invisible: Video Art in Search of the Word’s New Faces

Assistant Professor, Universitat de València and Research Fellow of Real Colegio Complutense at

Harvard University, Spring 2017


Julie Hamilton

Performativity and the flesh: The economy of the icon in Lia Chavez’s Light Body

Art Editor, The Other Journal


Ben Schachter, MA, MFA

From Making to Understanding: An Artistic Interpretation of the Commandment, "We Will Do and [Then] We Will Hear”

Professor, Saint Vincent College





Session 3


Linda Stratford, PhD

Exploring Theological Dimensions of the Aesthetic Object

Professor of Art History and History, Asbury University


Steven Félix-Jäger, PhD

Towards a Global Theology of Art

Adjunct Professor, Southeastern University and Polk State College




Discussion moderated by Ronald R. Bernier





Above: Kingdom of Heaven 2 (2015) by Wayne Adams



Website designed by World's End Images.

A    S    C    H    A