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Monday, June 8, 2009

Jesus In My Hood: Stretching The Local Canvas

Ary Scheffer’s “Christus Consolator” recently caused a stir at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). Quite revered in its heyday, circa 1837, even an inspiration to Van Gogh, Scheffer painted "Christus" copies that sold around the world. One found its way to rural Minnesota, and hence the recent unveiling at the MIA. As I stood in front of “Christus Consolator” I noticed that the composition, detail and plot were delightful, but I failed to see the charm, perhaps because “Christus Consolator” has to compete with sensual, modern, macho Jesus art that has the son-of-god doing heroin. (Stephen S. Sawyer version of "Calvary")
Which reminds me of the “The Cross and the Switchblade”(1970). If anything turned me off from a life of glamorous drug use, that movie did. Thank you, Jesus! And Officer Poncherello!

Heroin Jesus in connection to Minnesota? I live in The Land of Ten Thousand Treatment Centers, Sober-Club City. Some of my best friends are NA, AA, or just plain MIA.

But I digress.

Which reminds me of "This American Life", the TV series. To be honest, Ira Glass's formula for story telling has also lost its charm. Blasé. The piece on Jesus painter Ben McPherson, in “God's Close Up” (2007), I found tolerable. Basically this guy goes around Utah like a regular old Norman Rockwell, looking for bearded men to model for his Jesus series. McPherson is a connoisseur of beards. I’m a bit jealous. Ironically, the girl who dates the HOT Atheist Jesus model has left the (Mormon) faith… so the story is about her too. If she gets too uncomfortable with her boyfriend as Jesus, as apparently she is, I’d be glad to take on her Wifely Duties with Him.

You ask, how can I claim this “This American Life” episode as a representation of local art? PRI has a Minnesota mommy. Ira Glass would be SOL without us Minnesotans. Thanks to the first public radio station EVER… WCAL. (BTW, I can fit more acronyms into this paragraph if you insist...)

At least McPherson’s Hot Atheist Jesus Model is not put in compromising poses as Thomas Blackshear likes to do with his Jesus. Forgiven”(1992): Another modern day homo-erotic classic. I own a book dedicated to this painting. I know I'm stretching it, but some of my best friends are.... you guessed it... which makes this painting Minnesotan enough for me.

Finally, check out Minnesota artist Jessie DeCorsey. I enjoy her work over coffee. The iconic art-nouveau-ish gold leaf backgrounds and borders compete with photo-realistic portraits of ordinary people as saints and biblical characters. Her work allows me to indulge my soft spot for realism, though there is a bit too much realism going on for my taste. Don’t worry, right next to my soft spot for realism is a much larger soft spot for surrealism. It’s just harder to indulge when talking about HOTTIE Jesus art.

My favorite of DeCorsey's paintings is “Adam and Eve.” They watch me read the newspaper when I'm too lazy to make coffee at home. I also enjoy studying her remake of “The Last Supper”. Jesus is very modern… an unbearded (5’oclock shadow) short-haired blond… a cross between Thom Yorke and Chris Martin. Cute.

I've always wanted a reason to reference Thom Yorke on this blog. Thank You, Jessie!

If I had to guess, and I do, I’d guess Jessie DeCorsey comes with catholic baggage. But catholic baggage makes for decent contemporary icon paintings. Once again, I’m only guessing. If I actually gave her a call and straight out asked her, “are you catholic?”… well, that would be too much like original reporting for this half-assed blogger. And a bit creepy.

On that note, still waiting for Minnesotan Dan Lacey to come out with a Pancake-On-Jesus series. Come on Dan... you know you want to.
Looking forward: I'm semi-excited about the Pre-Raphaelite "Sin and Salvation" exhibit coming to the MIA June 14th. Will keep you posted about how I feel about one of the original Jesus Knocking on Your Door pics.... assuming I don't fall into a dead faint at his feet.
(if you prefer a link-free, picture-free post, see below)


Seeing Eye Chick said...

I love religious and spiritually inspired art. Though I was really turned off by the art professors I encountered who were openly hostile to it. No matter what faith inspired the piece.

Icon and Idol. Two sides of the same coin. Icon is what you perceive as sacred. Idol is what you see as profane, from a specifically personal perspective or a cultural one.

universalheretic said...

I believe I have the comic book version of the Cross and the Switchblade sitting in a box somewhere. When I was a kid I thought it was a joke of some kind and kept looking for jokes in it. It wasn't very funny.

Christine Vyrnon said...

UH: HILARIOUS. Which reminds me of Jack Chick cartoons made to scare the devil out of you. If you ever dig it out, let me know who the illustrator is. That's gotta be priceless.

Sharon said...

I read the comic as a kid, too. Here's a link to the pdf! I remember taking some Chick tracts to school as a fourth-grader because my parents didn't celebrate Halloween and I had some explaining to do to my friends. Yeah, it didn't go over so well. And I didn't have a strong enough Jesus spine to take the abuse from my fellow Christian girlfriends (their parents didn't dance in the aisles, you see).

Christine Vyrnon said...

Sharon... thanks for the file address! O god, those Chick tracts... hours and hours of entertainment. At least you tried to explain why you didn't celebrate Halloween. Good to know someone knows what that is like. My parents took us out of school for that "holyday". I didn't dress up until 5 years ago.

Dancing in the aisles! That sounds a bit pentacostal/assembly of god? Did these girls go to the same church?

Sharon said...

I was the only Pentacostal in my rural elementary school; everyone else was either Baptist or Methodist. They believed in God "the right amount" (yes, one of them actually said that to me) and apparently had it all figured out.

Halloween in New Orleans is amazing!