Note to Editors: Interviews with Eleanor Heartney are available by calling June Greist at (970) 491-6432. Photos of Heartney are available on request.
Cultural critic and author Eleanor Heartney will discuss the recent controversy over religious contemporary art in a lecture titled "Blood, Sex and Blasphemy: The Catholic Imagination in Contemporary Art" on Feb. 22 at Colorado State University.
The lecture, part of the art department’s Critic and Artist Residency Series, is at 7 p.m. in the Lory Student Center Theater on campus and is free and open to the public. Heartney’s talk will examine how the most controversial religious art work often is created by artists from Roman Catholic backgrounds. This surprising phenomenon can be seen through the work of artists including Robert Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano, Karen Finley, Robert Gober and Chris Ofili.
In a recent article in "Art in America" titled "A Catholic Controversy," Heartney writes, "One of the curious aspects of recent art controversies is the way that art works have gotten reduced to pat phrases: ‘a crucifix dipped in urine’ or ‘a Madonna splattered with elephant dung.’ However inaccurate such descriptions may be, they tend to define the art work for millions who will never see the real object."
Heartney argues that when complex images are reduced to a few simple words, it becomes easy to label art work as amoral or pornographic, particularly for politicians interested in attacking public funding for art. She explains that Catholic art has a long, rich history that contains elements similar to the ones that are currently under scrutiny in contemporary art works.
In the article, Heartney concludes, "Until we figure out a way to convince our public officials that art can’t simply be read like a cereal box, it’s likely that this won’t be the last time a Catholic artist is made an emblem of all that is wrong with the amoral, pornographic, ungodly art world."
Heartney’s work regularly appears in many magazines, journals and newspapers including "Art in America," "New Art Examiner" and "Artpress." She is author of "Critical Condition: American Culture at the Crossroads" and currently is working on a book about the Catholic imagination in contemporary art. Heartney is recipient of the prestigious Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism.
In addition to catalogue essays and book chapters, Heartney has served as curator, panel moderator and lecturer and has held adjunct professorships and visiting critic residencies at several art schools in the United States.
"Heartney’s writing is brilliant and insightful. She is a literary artist," said Linny Frickman, director of the Hatton Gallery. "Her writing is prolific and accessible to a broad range of people. We’re delighted to have such an important critic on campus to bring new insight to what has become a national cultural and political controversy."
The art department’s Critic and Artist Residency Series was created from an anonymous endowment to the art department in 1997 to bring prominent artists and critics to campus to expose students, faculty and the community to the contemporary art world.
This year’s exhibition in the Critic and Artist Residency Series is titled "The Serpentine Lattice." Artists Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison are known for international and national projects that create a powerful image of a new relationship between humans and nature. The focus of "The Serpentine Lattice" exhibit is the disappearing North America Pacific Coast temperate rain forest.
The Harrisons have been profiled in Heartney’s book "Critical Condition: American Culture at the Crossroads."
The Harrison’s exhibit will run through March 3 at the Hatton Gallery in the Visual Arts Building on campus. Gallery hours are Mondays-Fridays 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Saturdays 1-4 p.m. All exhibits and events are free and open to the public.
For more information about the Critic and Artist Residency Series, contact the Hatton Gallery at (970) 491-1989.