Dramatically underscoring the theme of the Twenty-seventh National Conference on Religious Architecture, “An End to False Witness,” was the decision of the jury of an ecclesiastical arts competition that the material submitted did not warrant exhibition, and the refusal of conference officials to allow the jury’s statement to be publicly displayed.
Not until the final session of the conference in San Francisco last month were delegates and observers able to listen to and participate in the debate. There a member of the jury, Mrs. Jane Dillenberger, art historian and wife of theologian John Dillenberger, brought to light the story of the disagreement between the jury and the conference officials.
Approximately 350 works were submitted by eighty-nine artists and craftsmen. These were studied by the jury, headed by Mario Ciampi, the architect who won the competition for the design of an art gallery to be built on the Berkeley campus of the University of California. The other jury members were Richard Diebenkorn, painter; Peter Voulkos, ceramist and sculptor; Robert Hudson, sculptor; and Mrs. Dillenberger. The unanimous decision was that, though there were some works of integrity and sound craftsmanship and some objects of beauty, they lacked sufficient carrying power to warrant an exhibition.
The jury recommended that its decision be placed in the room allotted for the showing, to dramatize for the Church and for architects and artists the poverty of the situation.
Conference officials, rather than accepting the challenge of an empty exhibition room and entering into discussion of the disturbing implications, refused to allow the statement to be posted, and accused the jury of “massive egotism” and “publicity seeking.”
“Their critics ...1
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