In this podcast I explore how images influence our understanding of reality and the sacred through conversations with thought leaders on art, visual culture, and religion. Each episode delves into a different area of visual theology, opening to spiritual wisdom while deconstructing an image-saturated world.
Gregory Price Grieve
Video Games and Theology
Gregory is Head, and Professor of the Religious Studies Department at The University of North Carolina Greensboro. As the Director of UNCG’s Network for the Cultural Study of Videogaming and a founding member of the International Academy for the Study of Gaming and Religion, Gregory is at the forefront of advancing scholarly understanding in this emerging field.
In this episode, Gregory and I discussed how video games challenge and reinforce societal perceptions of religion. We talked about ways religious studies can critically analyze and interpret these representations in popular gaming culture. We also delved into how video games influence personal beliefs, the symbolism of violence, and the role of games in relation to complex moral and philosophical concepts.
Technology and Embodiment
Brent has presented their research at museums, cultural centers, and universities across Asia, Europe, and North America. Recent books include Religion and Film: Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World, A History of Religion in 5 ½ Objects, and the co-edited Routledge Handbook of Material Religion. They are the Executive Director of the Association for Public Religion and Intellectual Life, otherwise known as APRIL, editor of the 70-year-old journal CrossCurrents, and Board Member of the Interfaith Coalition of Greater Utica, NY.
In this episode, Brent and I discussed the profound interplay between spirituality and tangible objects. We explore how material culture has shaped and continues to influence religious practices, rituals, and beliefs. Brent offers valuable insights into the historical significance of religious artifacts, shedding light on their role in preserving and transmitting spiritual traditions.
Religious Identity in Media
Stefanie is Professor of Constructive Theology in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University. Her teaching and research focus on religion, media and gender, the role of body in religious traditions, issues of gender and sexuality in theology, and the theological engagement with visual arts, film and other visual media. Stefanie has served on ecumenical juries at film festivals in Fribourg, Locarno and Venice. She is the co-chief editor of the Journal for Religion, Film and Media and coordinator of the editorial board of the book series Research in Contemporary Religion.
In this episode, Stefanie and I delve into religion, spirituality, and their interaction with media representation. We explored the importance of challenging prevailing narratives, talked about how contemporary artists and filmmakers influence the mediascape, and considered strategies for promoting accurate depictions of spiritual life in media.
Urban Design and Sacred Space
Philip is Professor of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame, where he specializes in urban design and theory, with a particular interest in Catholic and classical humanist intellectual and artistic traditions in the context of modern American life and the contemporary culture of architecture and urban design. Philip’s research has been supported by grants from The National Endowment for the Arts, The Graham Foundation, The Historical Society of Boston University, and the Notre Dame Tocqueville Program.
In this episode, Philip and I discussed the complex and fascinating connection between urban planning, spirituality, and the profound shifts brought by modernity, including the influence of the automobile on cityscapes. We explored ways to reintegrate the sacred into contemporary city design in order to enhance well-being and spiritual fulfillment.
Exhibiting Sacred Art
Gary was director of the Walters Art Museum from 1994 to 2013; from 1985 to 1994 he was the museum’s chief curator. Before moving to Baltimore, Gary was senior associate at Harvard’s Center for Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks. A native of Minnesota, he received his BA from Carleton College and his PhD from Princeton University. He serves on the Advisory Council on Culture and the Arts of the Salzburg Global Seminar. He has been an advisor to the Getty Leadership Institute, Princeton University’s Department of Art and Archaeology, and the Center for Applied Neuroaesthetics at Johns Hopkins University.
In this episode, Gary and I discussed how to preserve the spiritual impact of Orthodox icons in a museum setting. We talked about the challenges of conveying the unique power of sacred art to a diverse audience while respecting its spiritual intent. Additionally, we discuss the intersections of art, culture, and religion in the context of pilgrimage.
Rachel Hostetter Smith
Religion Through Contemporary Art
Rachel is Gilkison Distinguished Professor of Art History at Taylor University. She has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome on two occasions, a participant in NEH Summer Seminars on Medieval Art in Paris and York, has been a seminar leader for artists and scholars in the US and abroad, and has taught in South Africa, China, Italy, and British Columbia. Rachel is a founding director and current President of the Board of The Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art. The recipient of the Best Article of the Year Award from the journal Explorations in Renaissance Culture, she publishes on a wide range of topics in the arts.
In this episode, Rachel and I discussed questions around the place and role of spirituality in contemporary art. We talked about her recent book on the subject and her various projects across a broad range of projects and exhibitions. We also explored how diverse artists navigate spirituality, cultural differences, and environmental consciousness through their artwork.