Impacting Culture through the Sacred Arts: “Faces of Christ” Seeks to Find a Home at JPCatholic

August 12th, 2019 | By Derry Connolly

When you think of great Christian art, works such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, Davinci’s Last Supper or Notre Dame Cathedral come to mind. But what is it about these works that have allowed them to stand the test of time and stand out among the art of today? In his Wednesday audience on November 18, 2009, while speaking about the art of past centuries, Pope Benedict XVI said that the purpose of such art was to raise the viewer up in prayer. Each element had its purpose, to lift one’s mind and heart out of their everyday lives, upwards to God. It was meant to inspire in them a sense of virtue, to educate in the faith, and to encourage the quest for holiness.

Looking at the contemporary art scene of today, can the same be said about the art within the Church in our day and age? Does our contemporary work bring the viewer closer to Christ in the same way art of the past does? Sadly, we have something of a crisis when it comes to our modern art, particularly when it comes to religious art. Much of what is considered “religious” artwork is instead a mockery of the sacred, and truly good artists who represent the truth, beauty, and goodness of God, like the artists of the past, are far and few between.

Everywhere you go, images surround you - on billboards, in storefronts, and of course on every corner of the internet. We live in a world where visual perception is the primary way a message is communicated. Youth are no longer reading books, and instead learn new information through the visual stimuli they receive on a daily basis via modern technology. In our post Christian society, these images aren’t communicating the things of God, but pull us deeper into ourselves, proclaiming a selfish and often times, nihilistic culture. It’s because of this that good art is greatly needed and is in fact desired today. We long for something that can once again raise our hearts and minds to something greater than ourselves.

Recognizing this need, convert Steen Heidemann is on a mission to relight the torch of Catholic art within the Church. A Danish collector, Heidemann has acquired over 200 paintings from modern artists all over the world, forming the collection called “Faces of Christ”. Each piece portrays a unique aspect of the Faith from the life of Christ, to the Mass, Redemption, Our Lady and the Saints. The “Faces of Christ” collection is not proscriptive, and there is a large diversity of expression. What these pieces have in common is each artist’s courage to break with the status quo, to create art with a reference to beauty, truth, and goodness and in which Christ’s message is clearly, pastorally, and attractively presented. These are painters who explore new ways in continuity with the past without copying it, each within his or her own culture.

The collection has been well received throughout its tours of western Europe, having been on display in France, Ireland, Finland, and Spain. Not your average art collection, the Faces of Christ Collection invites the viewer to a deep encounter with Christ, inviting believers and non believers alike to contemplate the mysteries of faith they depict. Audiences of all ages have been attracted to this collection, finding a special interest among the youth. One 2012 study found that while on display at Coutances (Normandy, France), 2,000 young people came to view the paintings and stayed longer than their senior counterparts. The number of youth who came to view the paintings for the remote location goes to show the growing desire the young have for such art and the great power it has to communicate and evangelize in today’s culture.

Today, Heidemann has joined with John Paul the Great Catholic University on a mission to build a Catholic arts center in Southern California, in the hopes of bringing this collection to a wider audience. As the Catholic School for the Creative Arts, JPCatholic is the perfect home for the Faces of Christ collection. With its mission to impact culture for Christ, the university educates the next generation of creators and innovators to place Christ at the center of their work. Southern California would be the ideal place for the Catholic Art Center as the region is home to a population of around 20 million Catholics who could come and enjoy the Faces of Christ Collection, as well as attracting viewers of all beliefs.

Going forward, Heidemann is looking for promoters to join him in founding this arts center at John Paul the Great Catholic University. The center would give the collection a permanent home for the paintings to remain on display while part of the collection continues to tour. It would also feature other art forms surrounding the Mass, such as sculpture, architecture and liturgical elements. With many years of experience in this field, Steen Heidemann has organized over 25 exhibitions around Europe in National Galleries, managed a large impressionist collection in France for many years, and holds international symposiums on art and the Catholic Church today, in order to support the Church and its evangelization.

The Faces of Christ collection is relighting the torch of Catholic Art today. Bringing together the work of artists from all around the world and blending their unique cultural techniques with historical craftsmanship, this collection stands out from the rest. Captivating a modern audience, these works are reclaiming art for God, raising the hearts and minds of the viewers towards Heaven. A Catholic Art Center has huge potential to continue the mission of this great work and the artists it represents, but most of all, the kingdom it seeks to proclaim.

To learn more about the Faces of Christ Collection visit www.facesofchristcollection.com and to join the mission of building the Catholic Art Center at JPCatholic, contact Brendan Flynn at bflynn@jpcatholic.com

Image Credits (from left to right):
-James Langely (United States), XIV Station of the Cross (2008-2012) © Collection “Faces of Christ”
-Jean Prachinetti (France), Iesu Transfiguratio I (2003) © Collection “Faces of Christ”
-Maria José Ruiz (Spain), Alter Christus (2012) © Collection “Faces of Christ”

SEE MORE NEWS