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Intense Struggle of 'Greatest Living Catholic Painter'

Last edited 21st August 2016

Intense Struggle of 'Greatest Living Catholic Painter'

Whenever 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 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 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.”

Borysewicz, 58, grew up in a pious Catholic family in working-class Detroit. He attended seminary for four years but eventually opted against ordination. Bishop Kenneth Untener of Saginaw, Michigan, encouraged him to paint. By the mid-1990s Borysewicz had galleries selling his work in New York’s art meccas Chelsea and Soho, as well as elsewhere in the United States and abroad; in 1995 he received a received a John Simon Guggenheim painting fellowship. Photo: Close-up from the first version of Triduum II, a painting by Alfonse Borysewicz (Courtesy the artist)

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