By Xavier John Seubert, O.F.M., S.T.D.
Thomas Plassmann Distinguished Professor of Art and Theology
Former Director, Art History Program
St. Bonaventure University
Comments made May 2, 2008, in Buffalo at a reception for arts educators, to celebrate establishment of a $2 million arts education endowment by the Leslie C. Quick III family, and in recognition of a $600,000 grant from the Oishei Foundation of Buffalo in support of the Art History Program.
Art at times is thoroughly compelling and at times decisively controversial. Given our reactions to it, it would seem to be vastly important to living humanly. Why is that?
Art creates a physical, palpable space out of color, line and form – a physical space which often reverberates with our deepest and scarcely articulated intuitions of the energy and life at the core of ourselves and our universe. Art gives form and entrancing visibility to underneath impulses, which we may have suspected existed, which perhaps imperceptibly motivated our lives, but of which we had no clear vision until art created one.
The art of the ages reveals the unimaginable power and visionary potential of human perception.
We never fully saw a tree until van Gogh showed us one. And we will never see trees the same way again.
We never fully saw light until Corot revealed its nuances to us. And we will never see light the same way again.
We never fully understood the fierceness of human passion or the deep depravity of human relationships until Picasso and Francis Bacon showed us ourselves.
We were never fully aware of the tenderness and complexity of women and of the tormenting barricades to their thriving until Mary Cassatt and Frieda Kahlo showed us.
We only barely comprehended human dignity until Michelangelo painted his ceiling.
To study the history and dynamics of art is to immerse ourselves in revelations of human life and perception, which exist nowhere else. Art is one of the necessities of human being, and no education is complete without an exposure to art history.
It is for this reason that the newly-founded Art History Program at St. Bonaventure University moves across all disciplines taught there, and will have a faculty, which, besides a core of experts in art history, will consist of professors drawn from all fields of learning.
We are deeply indebted to the Oishei Foundation and the Oishei family, whose generosity created the foundation, for making this possible. Through the generous Oishei Grant and the establishment of our interdisciplinary Art History Program we know that the eyes of the St. Bonaventure community will be opened in new ways and that we will not be able to see the vast complexity of ourselves and of our worlds in the same way again. Thank you!