There is nothing particularly new or shocking in hearing that art has been used for centuries as an effective tool for propaganda and other political related purposes. From neo-classicism employed by the Nazi, socialist realism championed by the Soviet Union, to contemporary pop art driven by consumerism, ideologies and art, more often than not, have become inseparable elements in the modern world. Interesting enough, such connection can be traced back to as far as Renaissance art, in which art can inspire faith on the one hand and empower destructive ideologies on the other. According to Starr’s article, Renaissance images of Jesus, his family and followers are perfect examples for the dual characteristic in the transformative power of art: while inspiring devotion and intensifying faith in Christianity, the Renaissance depiction of Jesus falsifies biblical history and reinforces the division between Christians and Jews. By omitting Jesus’ Jewish identity, religious Renaissance art has contributed considerably to the lasting anti-Semitism embedded in European Christian society. What is most alarming is not the fact that Renaissance art was used for propaganda but that modern art historians continue to overlook such fact. As pointed out by Starr, this may have been the result of the Renaissance being largely romanticized and idealized, again, by omitting the reality of appalling living conditions at the time.
One may wonder if the transformative power of art, manifested in a negative light, can ever be avoided. At first glance, it seems quite impossible, for even within Renaissance art – known as the most humanistic and a pinnacle in artistic achievement in human history – destructive ideologies still manage to find their way in. Nevertheless, a more thorough reconsideration will reveal that, with some effort, art can escape from being used and/or interpreted as a means for religious and political propaganda. This may occur in the domain in which art is not meant for description; in other words, in the kind of art that concerns with emotions rather than depiction of reality.
For instance, Lucian Grada, one of the artists whose works of art are featured in WearThatArt, approaches the religious theme through an Expressionist lens, which renders his creation a positive transformative power without the presence of any ideological propaganda. His works, while emitting a certain kind of spiritual and religious aura, are not restricted by any norms of expression or depiction. In addition, the subject matter, despite its suggestion toward a tradition of religious art, is infused with modern techniques as well as interpretations (i.e. Mater, Leshua, etc…). His art works, sometimes recall Francis Bacon or Lucien Freud, manage to affirm their uniqueness and originality. Many of Grada’s most impressive works can be found and ordered in the form of best quality Art T-shirts on WearThatArt.com