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Borysewicz, Alfonse - by David Van Biema

Alfonse Borysewicz’s lonely struggle gives Catholic art a modern face

By David Van Biema / June 16, 2016 / Religion News Service

(RNS) Whenever Alfonse Borysewicz addresses a fresh canvas, a daunting set of issues stares back at him.

First, there is the fact that Borysewicz is painting from faith, when, for the most part, it doesn’t pay. Few galleries and museums are interested in explicit, non-ironic religious art. It can be hard to find a place to show, let alone to sell.

Then there is his Roman Catholicism. No other Western religion has produced such a rich legacy of artistic inspiration and ideas; but none exerts the same kind of anxiety of influence, described by one journalist as “the insane, neutron-star gravitational power of Catholic artistic tradition.”

This is all the more unnerving because the church, nervous about modernism, has not supported contemporary Catholic artistic expression. Modern practitioners must contend with a grandly defined past while inventing the present.

Yet Borysewicz (pronounced Boor-ish-SHEV-itch) garners raves from those who know his work.

Aaron Rosen, author of “Art + Religion in the 21st Century,” praises his “sophisticated, studied naiveté.” Gregory Wolfe, editor of Image, a glossy quarterly dedicated to the intersection of art and religion, describes Borysewicz as “the greatest living Catholic painter” and predicts that he will someday “renew the tradition” the way bad-boy painter Caravaggio did in the 17th century. Christopher R. Brewer, with the Colossian Forum on Faith, Science and Culture, said “Borysewicz is the genuine article,” creating “art beyond the end of art, and perhaps also the path to faith beyond the death of faith.”

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