Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date



The redefinition of what can be considered religious art in a contemporary society is at the forefront of conversation in the art world. In May 2018, the Met Costume Institute opened its Summer Blockbuster exhibition “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” Although current, this conversation is not new. Like all art, religious art has always been and always will be in a state of constant evolution. So what is the Catholic imagination? How has it made itself manifest in visual art? In “Postmodern Heretics” art historian Eleanor Heartney argues that the Catholic Imagination is uniquely informed by what she calls an incarnational conscious—a consciousness deeply rooted in Catholic theology, dogma, and culture. Not exclusive to secular art, this consciousness can be recognized in the ornamental illustrations of contemporaneous mid-century Catholic periodicals. Comparing graphic design by Emil Antonucci for Jubilee and Commonweal, to the body art of Vito Acconci, I explore the synergy between secular and religious artwork rooted in an incarnational conscious.