A piece of Venice in Denver

How did the Venetian painters of the 15th and 16th centuries influence the history of art? By simply observing the exhibition “The Glory of Venice” at the Denver Art Museum, the viewer can get an answer to this question.

Entering the hall located on the first floor of the Hamilton Building feels like being in the floating city of northern Italy.

The curators of this exhibition filled the room very well with colors, paintings, a video and baroque background music, transporting viewers through time and space and allowing them to travel through art to the themes that inspired artists like Giovanni Bellini, Tiziano, Marco Bassati and Vittore Carpaccio, among others.

In those times, Venice stood in a moment of chaos and uncertainty over military actions to protect its economic interests. It was also at that time a center of commerce where travelers found all kinds of goods. It was in this context that the artists of these periods, called Quattrocento and Cinquecento, managed to develop a distinctive Renaissance style in which they used light and color on the canvas to make outstanding pieces, through the definition and construction of the volumes and the forms of their compositions.

The exhibition also shows the great affection of the Venetians to the Virgin Mary. It should be noted that Venice was founded on March 25, the day on which the church celebrates the solemnity of the Annunciation – Incarnation. The spectator can contemplate the different works in which Mary is shown with the Child Jesus.

Many paintings in this exhibition show how Venetian art is influenced by the reflection of the changing skies over the city’s canals, as well as the refined designs present in this architecture, rich in textures, small details and mosaics.

 

The genius of Bellini

Between the 15th and 16th centuries, Venetian art took a turn due to the monumental works that were marked by the artist Giovanni Bellini.

Bellini, a teacher who was also called “El Gambiellino,” was born in 1435 and died in 1516. He presented a novelty in his paintings. In his work he excels at spiritual sensitivity, especially in the face’s expressions and in that art of conjugating the sacred with the terrestrial, integrating in the same landscape the spirituality of the religious figures with the environment, in which the minimal details stand out.

 

Before Bellini, religious paintings were icons with infinite backgrounds. Bellini, without removing the sacredness of the characters, was able to paint landscapes where the earthly reality could be seen in tandem with the reality in which they lived.

It also shows the same God who becomes man in a concrete reality and thus recreates the scenery of his works with a very natural environment.

The Denver Art Museum succeeds in bringing a piece of Venice to Colorado, and the exhibition allows viewers to revel in the creativity and harmony that became these artist’s legacy in the history of universal art.

The exhibition will be open until Feb. 12. For further information, go to

http://denverartmuseum.org/exhibitions/glory-venice

COMING UP: Navigating major cultural challenges

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We’re navigating through a true rock and a hard place right now: moral relativism and the oversaturation of technology. In fact, they are related. Moral relativism leaves us without a compass to discern the proper use of technology. And technological oversaturation leads to a decreased ability to think clearly about what matters most and how to achieve it.

Fortunately, we have some Odysseus-like heroes to guide our navigation. Edward Sri’s book Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Augustine Institute, 2017) provides a practical guide for thinking through the moral life and how to communicate to others the truth in love. Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild take on the second challenge with their book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia, 2017).

Sri’s book describes conversations that have become quite common. When discussing moral issues, we hear too often, “this is true for me,” “I feel this is right,” or “who am I to judge?” We are losing our ability both to think about and discuss moral problems in a coherent fashion. Morality has become an expression of individual and subjective feeling, rather than clear reasoning based on the truth. In fact, many, or even most, young people would say there is no clear truth when it comes to morality—the very definition of relativism.

Beyond this inability to reason clearly, Christians also face pressure to remain silent in the face of immoral action, shamed into a corner with the label of bigotry. In response to our moral crisis, Sri encourages us to learn more about our own great tradition of morality focused on virtue and happiness. He also provides excellent guidance on how to engage others in a loving conversation to help them consider that our actions relate not only to our own fulfillment, but to our relationships with others.

Sri points out that it’s hard to “win” an argument with relativists, because “relativistic tendencies are rooted in various assumptions they have absorbed from the culture an in habits of thinking and living they have formed over a lifetime” (13). Rather than “winning,” Sri advises us to accompany others through moral and spiritual growth with seven keys, described in the second half of the book. These keys help us to see others through the heart of Christ, with mercy, and to reframe discussions about morality, turning more toward love and addressing underlying wounds. Ultimately, he asks us, “will you be Jesus?” to those struggling with relativism. (155).

Blum and Hochschild’s book complements Sri’s by focusing on the virtues we need to address our cultural challenges. They point to another common concern we all face: a “crisis of attention” as our minds wander, preoccupied with social media (2). More positively, they encourage us to “be consoled” as “there are remedies” to help us “regain an ordered and peaceful mind, which thinks more clearly and attends more steadily” (ibid.). The path they point out can be found in a virtuous and ordered life guided by wisdom.

To achieve peace, we need virtues and other good habits, which create order within us. “With order, our attention is focused, directed, clear, trustworthy, and fruitful” (10). The book encourages us to rediscover fundamental realities of life, such as being attune to our senses and to aspire to higher and noble things. The authors, with the help of the saints, provide a guidebook to forming important dispositions to overcome the addiction and distraction that come with the omnipresence of media and technology.

The book’s chapters address topics such as self-awareness, steadfastness, resilience, watchfulness, creativity, purposefulness, and decisiveness.  These dispositions will create order in how we use our tools and within our inner faculties. They will help us to be more intentional in our action so that we do not succumb to passivity and distraction.  Overall, the book leads us to consider how we can rediscover simple and profound realities, such as a good conversation, periods of silence, and a rightly ordered imagination.

Both books help us to navigate our culture, equipping us to respond more intentionally to the interior and exterior challenges we face.