After over twenty years of being a believer in Christ, I finally came to the point where I decided to cast aside my internal conflict because the confusion was strangling me. I felt equip to begin painting Jesus the way I envisioned him. I still agonize internally over my work, hoping that it will represent Jesus in a way which he would endorse. There is also the external pressure from fellow Christians who misinterpret my work and do not grasp the spirit with which I am creating my work. Many Christians think my work is disrespectful to Jesus in that it is either too silly, or too serious, or too…something, but I have looked for strength in writers and musicians and a handful of artists who share my own quest.
I agree with writers like Finley Eversole who say “we must seek an increase of imagination by means of which the biblical and historic faith many be translated into terms that are meaningful to men today.” (Eversole, pp.13).
the greatest evangelical artist will probably come from rocky pasts. if we paint those rocky pasts- we will relate to those we are trying to reach-
Curtis Chang has also given me encouragement. “The key will be to creatively tell stories that are new while still remaining faithful to the gospel in the deepest sense. For all their departures from their inherited epochal stories, Augustine and Aquinas made sure their new tales fit within the deeper traditions of the church. We are seeking new versions of the Story, not original stories. The latter are usually called heresies.”(Chang, pg. 164).
what’s that mean? we are not trying to write Celestine prophecies or paint Jesus with two heads…naturally…but we r trying to paint work that SPEAKS the language of the hearers…
ARTIST’S DESCRIPTION OF PAINTING:
World Net Daily interviewed me a little bit ago on my Jesus ART- and featured this painting-
here’s a LINK
This painting is probably my best attempt to paint a modern day parable.
Joe’s Sermon Notes: C. H. Dodd’s definitionof a parable **
The most thought provoking definition of parable comes from C. H. Dodd, The Parables of … Joe’s Sermon Notes
joesermonotes.blogspot.com/ 2007/ 09/ c-h-dodds-definition-of-parable.html – Proxy – Highlight
In Jesus’ time, the culture was mainly agricultural, so many of His parables centered around seed, harvest time, workers in the field, stewards, the quality of soils, etc. This modern day parable deals with the current prejudice against fat people. I don’t mean to offend by using the word FAT. I have several friends who tell me they prefer the word FAT to what they consider candy coated euphemisms like HEAVY, OVERWEIGHT, BIG, CHUNKY, etc. Now hopefully having diffused the term FAT, I will move on.
Many people suffer with enormous criticism because their body does not line up with the cultural ideal presented to us in magazines, movies and all. Studies have been done that reveal how fat people are discriminated from jobs, relationships, etc. The pain of being judged is enormous. If the fat is due to heredity this is beyond a person’s control. If the fat is due to an addiction to food, this is also beyond a person’s control.
I envision Jesus as the ultimate hero, who feels the indescribable agony and rejection of this young woman. He thinks of a way to deflect the attention from her on to Himself. He stuffs a pillow up under his robe (to appear fat) and grabs a bag of Pork Rinds from a nearby Walgreens (pictured in the background). Then he begins his slow saunter toward the laughing girls field of vision. What will he say to them once he gets their attention? Maybe He would say the words he spoke over 2,000 years ago but in modern day language. paraphrased words of Jesus from King James Version : “It is not what goes into a man that defiles him- but what comes out of him (bitterness, envy, murder etc.”). and “What you do to the least of them- you do to me”. How would Jesus say these things in our vernacular?
first, why an ode to Kubrick? love him or hate him- he exposed the elites’ behind the scenes “games” in the film Eyes Wide Shut- and many believe he died just days after the final cut because of it…. the film was evidently later re-cut by Crusie and others…(perhaps Kubrick went too far and had to be taken out?
The setting for this painting is somewhere in contemporary American culture. The scene is a long room with reproduced murals from the Hall of Mysteries in Pompeii. (see link at the very END)
note: all the characters I mention are in the image but some are only lightly sketched in at this time. Some of the characters are finished and some have been partially painted.
The overall theme is sexual predation.
The setting is an enormous room with a costume ball taking place. The walls contain a faithful reproduction of the ancient Pompeian mural called the Hall of Mysteries.
The party goers are consumed by their own conversations, outfits and masks. No one notices the distressed young child with the torn dress except Jesus.
He rushes over to her, leans over and stretches out both arms, anxious to comfort and rescue her.
The predator stands behind the girl, (he is still just skecthed in pencil) unaware that his movement is restricted by an angel (like Balaam’s ass).
The molester rests one arm on a statue of an ancient fertility goddess. The head of the statue is small and the limbs are omitted so that the sexual organs are emphasized. The 19th century French antiquarian, Cesar Famin supports my use of this visual symbol. “Before Christianity had revealed to the world its great civilizing secrets, men rendered a strange worship to those material objects which acted most directly on their senses. It may even be supposed that a very long time before the Christian era there was no other worship than that of symbols. The divinity who presided over the reproduction of the human species, the miracle of all epochs, deserved the purest homage.”
A young woman in the foreground is the only attendee (except for Jesus and the angel) who is disturbed by the party’s theme. She holds a mask out at a distance from her body and glares as if it were a leprous thing. The mask is red and gold with a long snout. Goya used several images of masked figures in his series of etchings entitled Los Capriccios to represent falsehood and pretense (among other things).
Mark Vallen says of Goya’s Capriccios “It was the unpredictable quirks and impulses of those guided by superstition or a lust for power that Goya castigated with his etchings. Translated into English Capriccio means, “Caprice,” or “Whim,” but while the artist portrayed the follies and weaknesses of individuals in his print series, he always remained cognizant of how larger social forces manipulated and corrupted people. His prints are in essence a stinging critique against placing the interests of the few above the rights of the many – a concept all too relevant for the year 2010.”
Goya is one of my favorite artists. His social satire helped reshape the thinking of his era.
Back to my painting, I chose the Pompeian wall paintings to underline the fact (to paraphrase wise King Solomon) “there is nothing new under the sun”. Sexual abuse is rampant in the U.S.A. today – just like it was in Pompeii when the murals were painted. Most art historians think the ancient murals were used as part of a Dionysian rite for young women and the initiate was drugged and forced to participate in an orgies, etc. in order to be accepted into the upper class of society.
Films like Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick (who died just four days after screening his final cut of the film by the way) expose the fact that the contemporary social elites are as interested in sexual predation as were the people in the days of Pompeii.
Even more specifically, The scene shows various characters attending a contemporary costume ball. The hostess of the event is escorted into the room by a butler carrying a tray of champagne. She is on the far left of the painting in a blue Greek gown. Continuing to the right are two women holding hands. The one in a green dress looks delighted by the ambiance of the room.
Next is the most expressive character in the painting at this juncture. A young lady in a fourteenth century French costume looks shocked by the sight of a grotesque red mask with an enormous nose. The mask is held by a man standing next to her.
Continuing around the room, the viewer comes to the outline of a woman with her back to the viewer and a woman in a costume that is jester like but of the same period as the other French outfits. She is draped across a bench by the far wall.
One of the last characters is Jesus. He looks extremely empathetic and concerned for a little girl with a torn dress who is crouched on the floor. In fact, he is reaching out for her with an expression that communicates urgency and distress.
Directly in back of the small girl is a section of the enormous mural which seems to dwarf her by comparison. It shows a part of the initiation in which a woman is being whipped.
I have barely begun to sketch in a Pre-Columbian fertility goddess. This piece is being aggrandized by the host and hostess of the party as a great piece of art and yet historians think the sculptures in this vein had only a tiny head, breasts and vaginal area (no hands or feet). It is displayed on a pedestal sculpture stand. A spotlight illuminates it from the ceiling.
The perpetrator has not been painted as yet. He will be standing in the far right corner. There are pencil sketch marks outlinging his figure. He will be physically restrained from approaching the little girl by a semi-translucent “ninja” angel.
ARTIST’s DESCRIPTION OF PAINTING- (final thoughts):
While searching for a way to express Jesus the way I experienced Him -I began to see a pattern emerge in the images of Jesus which I had been pondering and plastered across one of my studio walls (picture of that coming soon…). I started to realize that in most paintings Jesus was generally portrayed as stoic, uninvolved and removed (EMOTIONLESS) but the characters surrounding him displayed the full gamut of human emotion!
This began to strike me as a tragedy because if there were ever a time in history when the people of the world wondered —-“Where is God- or where is Christ? and do they even CARE?” it is now.
Why does most of the art work for the past two thousand years depict Jesus as stoic, uninvolved and removed from what he calls “His body”? My Graduate THESIS addresses this and many other questions. I think that historians will very likely find my work unprecedented in the history of art for several reasons.
The main reason why I believe historians will conclude that my work is unprecedented in the history of Christian art is this “missing link” between Christian art and Jesus’ emotions. I challenge the reader to visit any major museum in the world and take some time looking at the religious icons and other periods of imagery about Jesus. If you find one painting or sculpture with Jesus portrayed with a human emotion (with the ONE exception of Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple) I ask you to contact me. When I give this challenge to Christian friends they will I have been bring up a recently made sketch of a laughing Jesus. I am not willing to include that sketch as an example of a real break from the tradition I am explaining of painting or sculpting Jesus without emotion for a few reasons which I will not elaborate on here. But suffice it to say, this is the only singular emotion that artist has portrayed Jesus with (to my knowledge) and so the artist’s body of work seems to lack a comprehensive understanding of this topic.
Another reason why I speculate that historians will view my work as unprecedented in the history of Christian art is because this topic is one of the most controversial topics in Christendom. I elaborte more on that in my THESIS (and here is a link). KATA’S GRADUATE THESIS PAPER
Contemporary MUSIC about Christ is now playing on hundreds of Christian radio stations, has crossed into mainstream pop, rock, folk, rasta (every genre imaginable.)
But where is the VISUAL art about Christ? Can it only be found in Christian bookstores? Is it at such a Neanderthal level that we walk such a store and see a rock that has “Jesus is my rock” painted on it?
Twenty five years ago Amy Grant was the “gold standard” for contemporary Christian music. Now the floodgates have opened. The idea of making contemporary songs about Christ that are in the vernacular of a certain culture or genre is rarely ever questioned. The cultural gap has been spanned.
What changed this from the way it was twenty five years ago? Contemporary Christian music used to be heavily censored. In the 1990’s groups like Audio Adrenalin, Jars of Clay and U2 filled a void and became enormously popular. Those groups made room for new groups for the year 2000 and beyond like Switchfoot who write lyrics truly pertinent to the youth of our time.
Why weren’t the forerunners like Audio Adrenalin and U2 censored as they had been for decades by WORD Music and other Christian publishers? Was it a matter of how much money they were making their record companies? Was there a secret “Christian music Council” that canonized the making of Christian music outside the acceptable cannon of Amy Grant? Sorry Amy, I don’t mean to pick on you but when I was in my mid twenties your name was about the only one I ever heard associated with Contemporary Christian Music.
Prior to this current time of acceptance (in about 1980) Dylan released his Slow Train Coming Album and when he followed it up with two more contemporary Christian albums. It was not yet the time of acceptance. Dylan’s record company dumped him and and most his fans booed him off the stage. Tragically, the very crowd that should have propelled his lyrics and songs from this time forward rejected him.
Dylans’ rejection by the Christian community reminds me so much of the rejection that Jesus encountered – it’s freaky. The Christian community not only failed to embrace his work – they ignored it. He was so far ahead of his time that he may as well have sung his songs in “Pigmy”. The intellectual gap was too wide. Most Christians could not understand him.
Dylan’s songs contained metaphors, stories, REAL EMOTIONS about how difficult it can be to lead a Christian life. Songs like I Believe in You. Songs about being mocked and ridiculed and thought a fool for choosing to profess Christ like Property of Jesus.
Meanwhile, the while the Christian community had just begun to acknowledge the question at hand- much less wrestle with it as Dylan had for years. The lephant in the middle of the living room that no one wanted to acknowledge was a long standing with the taboo. The question was “Is it O.K. for a Christian to sing songs about EMOTIONS?” We have advanced as Christians and to some the question now sounds trite and elementary. But believe me, for DECADES it was the biggest hurdle to jump. I will speak at length about the Church’s view on emotions in my autobiography. .
At this point any VISUAL artist endeavoring to make images of Christ must have more questions than answers. I know I do. And having questions is the best place to start.
Can visual artists who want to make contemporary images of Christ somehow follow in the steps of the musicians? Or in an entirely different route we need to take? How are the art forms (music and visual art) different? Why has the Christian Community and the Church at large so quickly embraced the musicians? What factors have contributed to the success of the musicians getting their “words out?”
Maybe here (in WORDS) we have a partial answer to the question of why the church has embraced the musical arts but not the visual arts. WORDS. Music. Sound. Christian Contemporary music is mostly words put to music. Christians UNDERSTAND the IMPORTANCE of the Word of God and when it is put to song that heralds directly back to the beloved King David who was a poet and a musician among other things. A “man after God’s own heart.” So Christens have no fences to jump any more in the area of the musical arts.
A couple decades ago there were evidently lots of fences to jump in this venue. Another reason I mentioned Amy Grant as being the “gold standard” twenty five years ago is because she had no problem getting air time on Christian radio stations. Her music was so popular it even jumped over to the pop music charts. In my opinion she didn’t do anything too risky or controversial. She had a lovely melodious voice and sang love songs to Jesus. Because she did not make waves- Word Music canonized her music. When she came out with the song Baby Baby it was as if she got hit by an eighteen wheeler. People stopped to gossip about the accident that was her life. Many called the song “carnal” and assumed it was addressed to her husband. The irony of it all was that she had just had a baby. The song was imply to her baby. This shows how vicious and quick to judge Christians can be of the arts. I know of NO other profession which Christians judge so harshly. Imagine a Christian plumber being raked through the coals by his fellows for not having a business that “glorified God”. That would be considered absurd.
But in the realm of image making Christians can be cruel. This heralds back to the misunderstood first commandment about “not making any graven images”….EEEEEEk. Rewind the tape. I was quoting the way most people recall that passage but not what is actually said. The passage does not say to not make any graven images but to not WORSHIP them. Martin Luther wrote quite a bit about the smashing of images during the reformation. He disapproved! He made two very important things. First that no one had the right to destroy private property. Remember the peasants were descending in mobs on the catholic churches and destroying the paintings and sculpture in them. But most importantly he wrote something that I wish every youth pastor Christian and other person who has blocked the creation of visual arts could have scorched on their memory. Martin Luther wrote that when it comes to the WORSHIP of images- he would hope that no one would so severely underestimate the heart and intelligence of another human being to assume they WOULD worship an image! All this was written centuries ago by the founder of the reformation. I hope we can open our minds and finally catch up with what was expressed hundreds of years ago.
Back to the Musical Arts…many scholars say that the only true American invention is the Negro Spiritual (excuse me, the politically correct term is now Black or African American) but when they were first sung in the fields by the slaves that was the terminology used. These songs deviated from the hymns being sung in American churches in that they contained EMOTION. So the Blacks are truly the original innovators and ground breakers.
They sang about the pathos and cruelty of life but also their hope of a better world to come. I have deep respect for these song writers and singers. I can hardly imagine the strength of character behind these songs. People whose families had been kidnapped, whose lives and families were owned and sold for mere dollars.
Many of these spiritually and morally strong black people were denied the dignity of privacy, food and adequate shelter. They had no hope of a better life and yet they sang soulful melodies and looked forward to a life to come in eternity without the pain and suffering and loss of their earthly existence.
Thanks to these musical geniuses who were slaves in America, the Christian Contemporary music of today is guttural, real, and raw. It reflects all the questions of the youth who are its main audience. .
Asking deep questions about life and expressing fear or pain about ones existence as a Christian twenty five years ago was risky.: It could even be misconstrued as an affront to God and Jesus. What changed that landscape?
I assert the musicians themselves have changed the landscape of the church intellectually and emotionally. The REAL questions and angst involved in being a Christian are finally being put forth in songs. I do not mean to exclude the joy and the wonder too. There is a full spectrum of EMOTIONS that many Christian musicians are now reflecting.