Religion has been an important aspect of art since ancient times, and vice versa.
To show how this has remained true throughout time and is true even today, the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Loretto opened its latest exhibit from the permanent collection, called "Seeing and Believing: Art Encounters Faith." It will run through Dec. 8.
Bobby Moore, interim curator for SAMA-Loretto, said art has always been used to express feelings, faith and personal views.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Dr. Scott Little and Ann Benzel, SAMA?board members, look at the Enrique Chagoya painting “Elvis?Meets the Virgin of Guadalupe” during a break from a meeting.
"The exhibition is about how art is influenced by religion, and about how art has played an important role in religion since the beginning," she said.
The generational and genre-specific diversity of the upstairs exhibit is apparent, featuring 45 works in everything from watercolor to mixed media to photography. Though most of the exhibition is based on Christianity, it also touches on Judaism and Native American spirituality, and how these religious views affected the artists.
"It's a very diverse exhibit," Moore said. "It shows how the visions of the artists, whenever they were expressing their religious beliefs, differ. You can see that in the works, in the subject matter and the way they portray their religious vision."
If you go
What: "Seeing and Believing: Art Encounters Faith"
When: Through Dec. 8
Where: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Loretto, 112 Franciscan Way, St. Francis University, Loretto
Details: Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free.
The oldest piece, called "Saint John the Baptist," depicts the saint and was done in 1525 by an unknown artist in the style of Leonardo da Vinci. But pieces like "Guardian Angel, Chalchihuitan, Chipas," by Mario Castillo wouldn't initially strike an onlooker as a religious piece, Moore said.
"I think that it's based on how people perceive angels, as someone watching out for them," Moore said.
Though many of the works in the exhibit are free of specific religious or biblical imagery, Gary Moyer, executive director of SAMA, said it definitely doesn't defy the idea of traditional religious art.
"Religion and art have coincided for centuries," Moyer said. "Art is about creativity, and religion is about creation."
Because they wanted to show a multifaceted exhibition, Moyer said you see samplings of religious experiences from different cultures around the world. Even contemporary American artist Sica offers an alternative view in mixed media piece "Saint Francis Dancing."
"It embodies St. Francis in a very lyrical way, when you look at it," Moyer said.
The largest representation of work by one artist in the exhibition are the 13 lithographs by Karen Laub-Novack, which are a part of her "Apocalypse" series. Though they are done in an abstract style, Moyer said the more you look at it, the more you can see her own interpretation of the event in each image.
In keeping with SAMA's tradition of supporting local artists, Moore said "The Buddha" by Hastings painter Pegi Houck is featured as an extra in conjunction with the exhibit.
Whether it's to see local art, religious art or just art in general, Moore said "Seeing and Believing" is a family-friendly exhibition that caters to fans of any media.
"The subjects are very diverse. [The exhibition] is not what you would think of going to see religious art," she said.
Moyer said it truly emphasizes and underscores the complement between religion and art.
"It's an interesting exhibition," he said. "The diversity of religion is exposed in art."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.