T

he influence of religion is dismissed as just an important factor in art. Modernity moved away from the once catalyst influence and began to see art as the religion.

Eleanor Heartney explores in her book, Doomsday Dreams: The Apocalyptic Imagination in Contemporary Art, the hidden controversial religious backgrounds of artists from Albrecht Düre to Keith Haring. A religious background, which Heartney speaks from her own experience, provides followers with a deep understanding of the connection between the body and soul. Heartney attribute this idea to the catholic imagination that links to the innate fear of the separation of body and soul through death.  

The largest story surround mass death is found in g the Book of Revelations within the Bible. This apocalypse influencing is the basis for her book Doomsday Dreams.  This grand battle between good and evil, insiders verse outsiders, has constructed a fear of an ever present cataclysmic end.

Portrait of Eleanor Heartney, pencil on paper by Phong H. Bui.

What dignifies apocalyptic art? Heartney as an art critic is able to look closely at the underlying themes as well as conduct research on to the artist’s background. In western culture, societies absorb certain assumptions about our reality and our end. As we participate in an apocalyptic view of time a liner time line informs one’s work verses the cyclical process of other cultures. The western notion of progress and our relationship with history leads us to the current environmental disaster we find ourselves in. We are unable to visualize our connection to the earth and each other due to the innate battle between us verse them. Heartney defines Covid is a metaphor for our society as a witch hunt for scapegoats. Pointing fingers at doctors, politicians, and countries develops ideological implications on how we view reality and tackle climate change, masks, and better way of thinking about our current reality.

Albrecht Dürer, The Four Horsemen, from The Apocalypse, woodcut, 1498. From metmuseum.org.

As we enter the fourth industrial revolution with the rise of Artificial Intelligence, large data collection, and Globalization singularity and individualism are bypassed by the grouping collective virtual experience. Heartney believes the current rise of the virtual sphere is not terribly great for art, yet it must be recognized as the main window to the physical art world.

“We want meaning in our lives!”

Materialism is on the rise to ease our need for meaning through consumption. The consumption of media and products in terms of quantity over quality has driven the human population to deplete our Earth’s resources. Globalization and connective technologies have unified the human population through shared news, experiences, and cultures, yet has not reconnected humans with our Earth. Heartney mentions the Jewish belief of Ticome Hollum as the human life’s job of repairing the Earth. To coexist with nature and not to dominate or use as instilled in us by western industrial enlightenment. Heartney’s way of thinking and her work shows that it is difficult to break away from the teaching instilled in us as a child. Whether it be the fear of death and the apocalypse of the misuse of Mother Earth, to better our human population is to start with teaching the children not to fear and to be kind to all living things.

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