Bridge to Wonder: Art as a Gospel of Beauty
Baylor University Press | 2012
In this FSA Inspiration, we highlight the scholarship of FSA Visionary and theologian Cecilia González-Andrieu, specifically her important volume Bridge to Wonder: Art as a Gospel of Beauty (2012). In this text, González-Andrieu employs the lens of beauty to consider intersections between theology and art, specifically situated within the academic field of theological aesthetics. Taxonomically distinctive from Apollonian idealism, “beauty,” she argues (along with Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar) is an essential aspect of theological truth. Thus, as part of its intrinsic participation in the economy of truth, beauty, and goodness, art’s responsibility to service truth for González-Andrieu has the power to evoke wonder.
Parallel to the heart of one’s spiritual experience, she notes, art and beauty mutually share the possibility of one’s encounter with the sacred – “and sometimes indeed beautifully find the shimmering glow of the presence of God”(6). This is of particular importance, notes González-Andrieu, for marginalized communities that might not have access to forms of beauty that privileged others might. From this perspective, art has the possibility to be salvific, acting as a gospel of beauty. She writes, “Beauty, then, in its accessible inaccessibility through a work of art, can make us aware of this profound complexity [of the mystery of God]—not only by the symbolic representation of the beautiful, but by prompting the movement of our heart in the quest of unattainable Beauty” (58).
Perceived both by its presence and its absence, González-Andrieu explores how beauty unmasks and conveys truth in its essence – rather than surface aesthetics.
Perceived both by its presence and its absence, González-Andrieu explores how beauty unmasks and conveys truth in its essence – rather than surface aesthetics. Considering several specific case studies for her proposition, she examines the exhibits “Apocalypse” (2000) and “Seeing Salvation,”(200) as well as sacred art commissioned for Notre-Dame de Toute Grâce du Plateau d’Assy in the French Alps (1940s-onward). Syndicate Journal organized a symposium on this book post-publication (2014), further considering González-Andrieu’s case studies, evaluating that her proposals do indeed present unique pathways to navigating apparent dichotomies of art and beauty, as well as art and religion’s abilities to mutually express experiences of wonder. A summary of the symposium is linked below. Selections from images of art works and performances that González-Andrieu considers in her book are featured below in the grid.
About Cecilia González-Andrieu:
Cecilia González-Andrieu is professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University. She completed her doctorate at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, and was first to combine systematic theology with religion and the arts under the late Alex García-Rivera. González-Andrieu is a leading scholar of theological aesthetics, in addition to working on issues of immigration, educational and worker justice. Author of Bridge to Wonder: Art as a Gospel of Beauty, and co-editor of Teaching Global Theologies: Power and Praxis, she co-chairs the LMU Latino Theology and Ministry Initiative, is an active supporter of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, and is an advisor for the Discerning Deacons Project. An alumna of the Hispanic Theological Initiative, she is Vice President of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the US, and is co-founder of LMU’s initiatives with undocumented students. Awards include GTU Alumna of the Year and the O’Hara Graff Award from the Catholic Theological Society of America.
Book cover image: Alfredo Gonzalex Cardentey, “La Catedral de mis sueños (The Cathedral I Dreamt), 1996.
Top banner image: Sergio Gomez, “The Last Supper,” 1995. Acrylic on canvas.