Catholic artist Dony MacManus is on a mission to save Catholic culture through the beauty of liturgical art. The 49-year-old Irish sculptor says he feels called to “resurrect the Christian tradition in the visual arts.” To accomplish this, MacManus is preparing to share his world-renowned skills at a new art school in Virginia.
Dony considers his artistic drive to be a vocation, and he brings his faith to each project. In the video interview above, he explains that art arises from the overflow of the artist’s interior life. This means that his art, and all art for that matter, is reflective of the artist’s innermost drive. In MacManus’ case, he brings Catholicism to his artworks by keeping his faith at the center of his focus.
This, in turn, can bring the viewer a deeper understanding of faith through art. In his philosophical work Art as Experience, John Dewey establishes that the meaning behind art is determined equally by the artist and the viewer. When viewing MacManus’ distinct Catholic style, faithful and “nones” alike are bearing witness to the artists own faith. As MacManus’ Catholic experiences mingle with the lives and backgrounds of the viewer, this has a vast propensity to spur spiritual growth.
Faith in art
For MacManus, keeping his faith in focus means practicing his Catholicism as he works. The artist explains that he steeps his life in “the liturgy, attending Mass daily, and praying in the church,” as well as meditating on the scriptures and saints. He said:
“If we resurrect the liturgy, that will give direction to our culture and save our culture moving forward. So essentially, in order to save the world we need to save the liturgy.”
This is just what MacManus is hoping to achieve with his new art school. Based in Falls Church, Virginia, the soon-to-be founded school will share MacManus’ skills as a sacred artist with the next generation. In an interview with The Catholic Herald, Dony explained that he wishes to teach high school students. This age group, he believes, is the most malleable and open to learning the secrets of sacred art. He said:
“I deal with high school students because they’re more open, they’re more excited about visual art and the great masters,” he said. “I’m trying to create an army of artists to serve Christ.”
MacManus went on to relate his believe that liturgical art is another form of catechesis. Just as the original purpose of stained glass was to teach the Bible to the illiterate, his sculptures illuminate the Gospels and saints. In this, the primary method of conveying biblical meaning is through beauty. MacManus casually quoted Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, noting that “Beauty will save the world.” He expanded on this sentiment:
“So if we put those two truisms together — ‘beauty will save the world’; ‘liturgy will save the world’ — well, then liturgical art is core.”