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Two new films feature the work and philosophy of Irish sculptor Dony MacManus


Guadalupe Roastery | YouTube

John Burger - published on 12/17/18

In a short video, we hear artist reflect on his own spirituality; in a longer one, he takes viewers on a tour of Florence.

Irish sculptor Dony MacManus, one of a growing cadre of artists who are working to restore classical ideals to the art world, is featured in two new films.

Director Travis Lee Ratcliff introduces MacManus to a general audience in a short film The Space Between the Ages. In the eight-and-a-half minute video, MacManus discusses the philosophy underlying his work, as Ratcliff shows how he turns a lump of clay into a bust of a model, something that almost appears to have a life of its own.

“I love the humility of clay, that you can transform a piece of mud into a magnificent mystical image,” MacManus says in the film. “Once I learned artistic anatomy as a grammar, I could dialogue directly with Michelangelo, Bernini, all the great masters. The body is the most beautiful form in existence: the essential form of the bone, complemented by the essential form of the musculature. You start to see where the science finishes and the mystical or the spiritual starts.”

The video was featured recently at Short of the Week, a website that promotes new and innovative short films.

In a longer film, The Florentine Renaissance, MacManus takes on the role of art guide as he walks the viewer through the Italian city dominated by the Duomo and its celebrated baptistry. We get a glimpse into and begin to appreciate the art that inspires MacManus himself and learn from his rich knowledge of Florence. It’s a city he knows well: he founded the Sacred Art School of Florence, which was situated in the studio once used by Fra Angelico.

Directed by Mario Pio D’Apote, the film is under a quarter of an hour long and is in English with Italian subtitles. It might remind some viewers of documentaries such as Civilisation with Kenneth Clark, or the Catholicism series of Bishop Robert Barron.

Both The Space Between the Ages and The Florentine Renaissance were made with financial support of Guadalupe Roastery, a coffee roasting and import cooperative dedicated to sourcing coffee directly from farmers.

“Beauty is something that calls us out of ourselves,” said Andrew Natali, business manager for Guadalupe Roastery. “It offers a moment of encounter that reveals to us our capacity to be drawn to something greater than ourselves.”

Guadalupe Roastery is hoping to develop two separate series based on these initial films and ultimately start a production company, Natali said.

“With the documentary short film about Dony, I am currently working with the director Travis Ratcliff to develop a documentary series around the central theme of beauty,” he said. The series would showcase composers, painters, sculptors, and dancers from a variety of cultures exploring the transcendental nature of beauty.

Natali said such films fill a void today, when the culture is “permeated with relativism, narcissism, and cynicism, which means people are now formed in ways totally antithetical to receiving the Gospel, which in turn means the message is falling on deaf ears.”

“We continually speak in a language people today are no longer formed to understand,” he said. “My hope is that this series can bring back this language of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth, which is the language of our Faith, and help prepare the way for evangelization.”

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