Waiting for the End of the World: Eschatology and Art 1939-Present

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






A Strange Place Still? Religion in Contemporary Art

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New York City


Video resources from this event can be viewed HERE


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 the critic and art historian remarked: “[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.


Picturing Paradise in 19th Century British and American Art: Past, Lost, Regained

February 2, 2016

Henry Luce III Center for the Arts and Religion

Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D. C.


Paradise is a persistent and varied theme in 19th century American and British art. It is often visualized through local, exotic, and even imagined landscapes, gardens, and plants. Drawing from both the first and last chapters of the Bible (Genesis and Revelation, respectively), as well as literary sources such as Dante and Milton, artists interpreted “paradise” in different contexts. Some described the paradise of the past (the Garden of Eden), the present (the paradise “lost” after the Fall), or the paradise to be “regained “in the future (as the destination of the blessed soul).



Envisioning the Eucharist: Transcending the Literal in Medieval and Byzantine Art
February 11, 2014

At the Art Institute of Chicago


This symposium examined the assertion that Medieval and Byzantine art functioned not as a mere supplement to or reduction of advanced theological concepts, but as theology in its own right. This symposium featured papers of new scholarship that explore how developing Eucharistic doctrine was translated—and transformed—visually.



“Sang Sacré”: Conflicting Associations in French Art

February 12, 2013

At Pratt Institute, New York, NY


In Christian concepts of sacrifice and redemption, sacred blood—“le Sang Sacré” suggests competing meanings, as represented in symbols, themes, and narratives.  Between c. 1780  and c. 1900, French art demonstrated ways in which Christian associations with blood could form part of a dialectic of truth and falsity; and how this dialectic could be all the more vigorously conveyed via blood imagery. “Sang Sacré” has been identified not only with mortality and immortality, but as well, with power as an expression of the vengeful, the covenantal, and the salvific.



Faith, Identity, and History: Representations of Christianity in Modern and Contemporary African American Art

March 23, 2012

At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA

Saturday March 24, 2012

At the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA


Although sometimes overlooked, Christian symbols, themes, and narratives have been employed in complex and divergent ways in works of art by African Americans. Coinciding with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts' exhibition, Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit, this symposium focused on intersections of faith, identity, and history in a broad range of works created by modern and contemporary African American artists. Scholarly papers explored artists' uses of Christian symbols, themes, and motifs relating to issues of family and community and to the negotiation of race and class.



Christianity and Latin American Art: Apprehension, Appropriation, Assimilation

February 21, 2012

At the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, California


This symposium featured presentations on a wide range of topics on the interconnectivity of faith, race, ethnicity, and history, from an impressive roster of established and emerging national scholars in the field. Papers explore religious themes, narratives, iconography, and sensibilities in Latin American visual culture, in a variety of media, and from a range of historical periods and regions of Latin America.



Why Have There Been No Great Modern Religious Artists?

February 8, 2011

Hosted by The Museum of Biblical Art, New York City


Mirroring the complex presence of religion throughout the 20th century, there has been a proliferation of religious expression in the visual arts. Many of the most prominent and celebrated artists of this century have employed Christian themes, iconography, and forms in their work. However, many of these artists and their works have been ignored, dismissed as aberrant, or condemned as an improper union of incompatible traditional and avant-garde values. The diverse and contradictory manifestations of religious expression in the art of this period, from private devotion, to liturgical practice, to critical commentary, to creative expression pose methodological problems for narratives of modernist and post-modernist art history that have tended to omit serious consideration of Christian strains in 20th century and current artistic practice.




History, Continuity, and Rupture: A Symposium on Christianity and Art

May 25–31, 2010

Hosted by Le Pavé d'Orsay, Paris, France


Set in Paris, a city both rich in art history and art theory, this inaugural gathering of The Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art (ASCHA) brought together art historians, theologians, artists, and scientists to discuss issues in the 2,000-year history of Christianity and the visuals arts. Papers focused on how methods of research have led to the inclusion, exclusion, and interpretation of Christian content in the visual arts. The symposium concluded with an open discussion of the state of art history as a field of study. Consensus was that currently available methods of research and scholarly associations did not adequately address the diversity and complexity of the history of Christianity and the visual arts. ASCHA was founded to create forums in which issues of Christianity and the visual arts could be critically examined.


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