Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Cross at Ground Zero

When the twin towers had come tumbling down after the plane attacks, after the smoke cleared there appeared... a cross! Some of the foundation of the twin towers came down in one piece, planting a piece of it shaped like a cross in the ground. Now it doesn't take much to make for a religious symbol. Give people a dog's ass and lo and behold! It's an apparition of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior! In the case of Ground Zero however, even if the good Lord decided to plant a symbol there, what could that mean? That God suffered together with His people? That God endorsed the attacks?  Perhaps it was a tag, telling you "I Am was here!" I don't know, it's not very clear to me what it would be supposed to mean, but I do know that the Americans in their best of traditions made sure to sentimentalize the hell out of it right away.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cute Nativity Scenes

The nativity scene is just an inexhaustible goldmine. I already wrote something about this in the piece on homemade nativity scenes and in no way am I done yet with this subject. On the website, there is a collection of posters depicting the nativity scene in a disturbingly cute manner. I can't decide what is so disturbing about it exactly, the colors, the roundness of things, the fact that children had a baby, who can tell? There is just something uncanny about it. Unfortunately I couldn't find the artist mentioned on the wallcoo website. By the way, what part of Scripture mentions cutesy squirrels and bunnies gathering round the crib?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pro-life Art: Gary B. Clark

The whole anti-abortion discussion is a bit alien to Europe. Even though of course we have our fringe groups of fanatics on both sides and the public debate pops up every now and then, it is not a presence like it is in the United States (and Canada?). I remember being in the United States with friends and being just baffled by all the road-side banners with pictures of innocent looking babies on them, accompanied by captions like "Would you destroy this!?" Frantically taking pictures of us next to them of course like you would with the members of a local tribe somewhere in Africa, feeling that we had stumbled on something truly exotic. Now the idea of pro-life is of course an ideal marriage partner for sentimental art. Life, innocence, defencelessness, potential, these are all ideas that the romantic dreams are made of. Gary B. Clark took a good crack at putting this to canvas it seems, managing to get in a little touch of Rosemary's Baby on the side.

 The Gift

 Double Blessing


 Never Alone

His Work

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Jesus Pixel Art

Pixels are the smallest bits that your computer screen is composed of. Nowadays the pixels on your screen are numerous, but in the olden days it was usually limited to something like 256x240 pixels because of 8 bit limitations. If the largest variables you can assign values to are 8 bits big, that gives you a range of 0 to 255, so your screen isn't going to be wider than 256 pixels. Which is not a lot. 8 bit art or pixel art therefore refers to art that is very rough. It was indeed an art to make illustrations still recognizable and believable when you're working with small resolutions, but into an art it was turned indeed. Only after about 1992 did people start to appreciate this type of art for it's aesthetics rather than for it's practical dimensions. The appreciation is probably in part based on the fact that with so very little you can still make an illustration come alive. New artists in the era where a creative approach to the 8 bit limitations was no longer a necessity seem to have been still inspired by that creativity and set out to make art in that style.
        Under every rock will you find Jesus and the pixel rock is no exception. People seem to have applied the 8 bit style to depict Jesus and all his crazy friends. One artist that made the art work for the cover of the 8-Bit Jesus Christmas album is Jude Buffum. This guy seems to be actually a very talented artist, with a feel for themes as well as being able to get them right. The scenes he depicted from late 1990s movie Big Lebowski really looks like still shots from a 1980s Nintendo NES video game. The Christmas album itself, by the way, might deserve a story of its own. More on that later. I also have to mention the game Run, Jesus Run! by Molleindustria, 2010, which some of these still shots are taken from. I actually realize now (after playing it a million times) that they used Sonseed's Jesus is a Friend of Mine song as the (8 bittified) theme! There seems to be a nice 8 bit rendition of Jesus as a T-Shirt design by the company spreadshirt. That, in turn, someone seems to have used as a design for a tattoo.

By the way, this is a three pixel jesus in that last one! I don't think I'll ever find a more minimalist depiction.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Islamic Comics: Iznogoud

Iznogoud (pronounced "eeznogoode." Get it?) is a French comic book series that saw the light of day in the 1960s, written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Jean Tabary. I remember liking the comic books very much as a kid. The series is about Iznogoud, the helper, or Grand Vizir, of the Caliph, who actually wants to be Caliph in his place, a desire immortalized in the French phrase "Je veux être calife à la place du calife." Iznogoud is a self-centered and ill tempered character with a lust for power. All his plans to kill the Caliphe so he can take his place always backfire though and he ends up falling into his own traps in the best of comic book / cartoon tradition. The Caliphe himself on the other hand is a very kind and calm almost Buddha like person. The morale here is obvious, but actually so obvious that the comic mocks it too a bit. You sort of build up a sympathy for Iznogoud because he always fails so miserably. He is indeed your classic anti-hero.
        Now the only thing that makes all of this Islamic or even religious at all is that it deals with the Caliphate. The creators of the series are, at least as far as I know, not Muslim at all, so it sort of takes on this theme from the outside. It really could have been about anyone anywhere. This comic book is clearly from before Islam became the new Communism, otherwise the creators might have picked a different theme (Soviet Union anyone?) The Caliphate is difficult though, because the Caliph is simultaneously the head of state and the religious leader, ruling in a theocracy, in accordance with Islamic religious law, the Sharia. So the Caliph is simultaneously the mundane and the religious ruler. He is both priest and president. There seems to have been some religious controversy over it, where "unlike the French version Haroun El-Plassid's title was changed from Sultan to Caliph avoid upsetting the British Muslim community." (wiki).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Father Murphy

This was a TV series from the 1980s. Wiki sums up the plot thus: "It starred [...] actor Merlin Olsen as an 1870s frontiersman named John Michael Murphy who teams up with prospector Moses Gage (Moses Gunn) to shelter a group of orphans who are being threatened with a workhouse." This would actually disqualify it as a religious series. I have to admit, upon watching the first few minutes of the trailer, I was thinking "this is too professional to be Christian." There seem to be though, if not explicit Christian messages, at the very least some hints. The Amazon description reads "Burly drifter John Murphy (Merlin Olsen) becomes the unlikely caretaker of a group of orphaned children growing up in America[']s Wild West. Touched by their plight, he poses as a priest with lovely local school teacher Mae Woodward (Katherine Cannon) and his miner buddy (Moses Gunn) assisting with the children. Together this makeshift family gets involved in a series of adventures, encountering unscrupulous businessmen, gamblers, horse rustlers, bank robbers and much more!" Not to say Satan himself! It reminds me too of the themes of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, that also explores the idea of redeeming the unruly West in the late nineteenth postbellum era.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

God's Girlz Toy Dolls

There is a line of toy dolls called God's Girlz, published by the company Kerusso, which seems actually to be more of an inspirational T-Shirt printing company. In fact, the girlz seem to be wearing miniature versions of their T-Shirt prints. Cunning, very cunning. I wonder what makes these girls religious though. They wear some Jesus shirt, yes, but that seems to be it really. Other than that they seem in style indistinguishable from you average Barbies and Bratz. What's the point of creating a Christian alternative if that supposed alternative isn't all that different from its secular counterparts? Tribal pride is a silly thing perhaps. Finally, when you look for God's Girlz, you will also run into something quite different, the alt porn website images. The fact that you'd find good clean and wholesome Christian toy dolls that are supposed to be an alternative to the secular slut dolls and simultaneously find all this alt porn happily juxtaposed of course is very funny.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bible Mugs

How do you like your coffee? Lots of cream? Lots of sugar? How about with some Bible bits on your mug?

Website where I found these:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Christian Art: Liz Lemon Swindle

What a last name! Must be strange to open an exhibition for her and then announce this with "The great Liz Lemon Swindle!" She should have had Malcolm McLaren as her manager. But what's in a name? It's all about the works! And what works they are! A few notes on this. The artist seems to be a member of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Mormonism is just a part of Christianity, be it with revelations of Joseph Smith that came after the New Testament, which is why it is despised so much by other Christian denominations that do not recognize any revelations after the New Testament. This is an interesting point by the way. Two denominations might not get along because of different interpretations of Scripture, but adding new material to Scripture is the surest way to be despised by all other denominations. Judaism rejected Christianity because of it, Christianity rejected Islam because of it, in fact Islam in its earliest days was descibed by "Christians of the East and West [...] as Christian heresy" (Chidester, p. 172), and Protestantism at large now rejects Mormonism for it. I wonder why new revelations that result in new Scriptural contributions are considered to be the ultimate blasphemy. But enough speculation on that, back to Swindle! I included one of her portraits of Joseph Smith in this post, just to anchor the Mormon character of her work. In fact a lot of her illustrations I had already met and even used, like in the post on Mormon art for example, but I didn't know she was the author. Damn modernist alienation at work again! I also love how she depicts modern situations, like the business man contemplating his life in an airplane. That look on his face, only the faithful artist can pull that off!

 Even Superman Needs a Dad
 Of One Heart, Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail
 Lost Sheep
 Let's Get Papa
 What Profiteth a Man: The Rich Young Ruler (Modern)
 Hold On Tight
Let the Children Come
Against the Wind

Source: David Chidester. Christianity. A Global History. Penguin Books Limited. Great Britain, 2000.