The close relationship that art and religion maintained for several millennia has in recent decades eroded so drastically that it’s difficult to imagine fine arts and contemporary religion having anything in common. Art is, on the whole, a secular enterprise, and religion is frequently more anesthetic than aesthetic in character. The two worlds happily foster vulgar understandings of each other almost to a point of pride. Some might even suggest that adherence to one entails a rejection of, or at least critical distance from, the other. But not everyone is content with this scenario.
Currently on view in the refectory at Union Theological Seminary are 16 beige painted rectangles, including one ensconced in a prewar, built-in, gilded mold over the large fireplace. The rectangles are silhouettes of the portraits of former Union board members and school presidents that traditionally occupy the space. The portraits’ absence, along with an accompanying publication, make up an exhibition titled About Face: Portraits at Union Theological Seminary, by artist Cathy Busby.