The Heavenly Bodies exhibit at the Met is an amazing fusion of faith and fashion. It features a collection of contemporary designers’ work (e.g Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Jean-Paul Gaultier, etc.) inspired by the Catholic imagination.
You don’t have to be into fashion or religious to take something away from what’s on display. The artifacts are intricate, masterfully crafted, avante-garde, creative… emotive. You might be repulsed, inspired, maybe even delighted. Either way, I think you’ll find yourself provoked.
In my case, I left the museum thinking about my faith and what role Catholicism might play in my life present and future. I grew up singing in church, but abandoned going regularly in college. I felt disconnected from the institution, which I came to associate with corruption, abuse, antiquated policies, and a shameful history. As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve been in search of a spiritual anchoring and find myself going to church again in the process.
I’m increasingly wary that words like community, culture, values, tradition, and ritual are ubiquitous in our startup and marketing lexicon. I think about use of words like ritual to describe vitamins, candles, and Burning Man themes, and imagine that I’m not alone in my quest to find a spiritual home. My theory is that amongst my milliennial peers, we’re flocking to yoga classes and opting into camel pose in lieue of kneeling in church pews. We’re worshipping celebrities and Instagram influencers in place of men draped in robes. We’re turning to apps, forums, and blogs as modern-day confessionals. We write company manifestos as if they’re new scriptures.
Church attendance numbers are dwindling, but is all faith lost for the future of Catholicism? I hope not. If there’s one takeaway or inspired thought from Heavenly Bodies it’s this: there’s a place for Catholicism in a modern era, but it requires a new generation of makers, collaborators, and believers to re-imagine it.
I went to the Cloisters today (6/23) and the other half of this collection left me just as inspired as the first part downtown.