Three Questions with Daniel Siedell

Daniel A. Siedell is an art historian, critic, and author of God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art. Mr. Siedell will deliver a special lecture, “Thinking Theologically about Modern & Contemporary Art”,  at Vanderbilt Divinity School on Wednesday, April 8, 2015. For our readers to become acquainted with Mr. Siedell, we asked him to respond to three questions.


1. What spiritual/meditative disciplines, if any, do you practice?

First, I do practice some form of spiritual and meditative disciplines; second, an important part of those disciplines is in their privacy. But, I will say that I get up very early and spend time alone. I live right next to the Atlantic Ocean in south Florida, so I try to walk on the beach regularly, often with my wife as a way to reconnect outside the busyness of life. An important realization for me was that the spiritual cannot be separated from the physical—and so eating, drinking, exercising, etc. are just as important spiritually as prayer, meditation, reading, etc.  And lastly, I try to spend a lot of time in art museums. In the New York Times Sunday paper last week, the Project Runway star Tim Gunn was featured in the “Sunday Routines” Series and it describes how he spends the entire day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a means of healing. I deeply empathize with that. [Here is the profile link, btw]:

2. Name one or two places (events, etc.) that were formative influences in your life.

Although I live with my family in south Florida, I teach in New York City, and so I spend an inordinate amount of time with my students at art museums and art galleries. The Museum of Modern Art is very special to me—as a young kid from Nebraska in graduate school in New York City, it became a magical place, both comforting and discomforting in the best possible ways. It filled me with hope—hope that I would be able to devote my life to art in a way that would make MoMA an important part of it. And so, when I’m in town and have some time alone, I’ll go there just to be alone with the building, the old friends that hang on the wall, and express gratitude that my prayers were indeed answered. And over the years it’s become an important place not only to me but for my family as well, especial my wife and daughter, who attends college in New York City.

3. What was the last movie you saw in the theater? Did you like it?

The last movie I saw was Birdman. It was a powerful expression of the faith and risk of and for art. I was deeply moved by it and in some ways found myself described, interpreted, challenged by several of the characters.


The lecture is sponsored by VDS Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture. For more information, click here.