Artist Searches World for New `Mega-Symbols'

By Schaeffer, Pamela | National Catholic Reporter, May 14, 1999 | Go to article overview

Artist Searches World for New `Mega-Symbols'


Schaeffer, Pamela, National Catholic Reporter


Gregor T. Goethals, artist, author, educator and now art director and graphic designer for the American Bible Society's new media project, has spent the better part of her life "zigging and zagging," as she puts it, between philosophy, theology and art.

A Yale- and Harvard-educated professor and dean of graduate studies at the Rhode Island School of Design for 29 years, Goethals has long been interested in the role of the artist in a technological society and the way images function in a technological, consumer-oriented age. Among her accomplishments is a book called The TV Ritual: Worship at the Video Altar (Beacon Press, 1981).

Goethals' interest in theology and art evolved from her intellectual awakening in college, at Louisiana State University -- where, at first, she went to party, she said, and then encountered the renowned political philosopher Eric Voegelin. Her interest also evolved as "a kind of resistance against highly sentimental, often trite art that is considered by some people to be religious symbolism."

"I'm essentially a populist," she said. "But I would like to see more options in religious art than currently exist."

So when the American Bible Society began looking around for art consultants for its forays into new media, Goethals was a likely choice.

Reared in Monroe, La., as a Baptist, she gravitated to the Episcopal church and then to Catholicism as an adult. Her artistic sensibilities gave her a strong preference for a symbol-rich "material" Christianity over symbol-deprived Protestant churches. "I was drawn to Catholicism by my love of stuff," she said, although she equally values a lesson from her early training in "Bible-belt Christianity": its sense "that the world is not ours."

Pushing boundaries

At first as Goethals worked for the Bible society she fulfilled the need for an art historian -- someone to research how artists had treated various biblical subjects in the past. Equally at home in theology -- Goethals holds a bachelor of divinity from Yale, along with a master's in art, and a Ph.D. in philosophy of religion from Harvard, working along the way with such giants in American religion as H. Richard Niebuhr and Robert Bellah -- she discovered fascinating links between the evolution of theology and the popularity of particular images. For example, while working on "A Father and Two Sons," she discovered that the parable -- all parables -- were popular subjects for artists in regions imbued with the Protestant spirit. A fundamental doctrine of the Reformation was, after all, primacy of the word of God.

"What's so interesting is today to study art history you have to know philosophy and theology," she said. "When I was in school, there was academic imperialism. You were expected to have a narrow focus" -- a dictum she ignored.

Since 1992, when Goethals' work with the Bible society. in new media began, her role has shifted from research to production. Her personal life underwent some major shifts as well. After retiring from academia in 1995, she moved cross-country to a hillside home in California's Sonoma Valley, overlooking a neighbor's vineyard.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Artist Searches World for New `Mega-Symbols'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.