Tag Archives: religion

Brooklyn Museum Unveils Andy Warhol’s Catholic Side


Andy Warhol, The Last Supper, 1986. Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, 78 x 306 in. The Baltimore Museum of Art, Purchase with exchange funds from the Harry A. Bernstein Memorial Collection. Photo: Mitro Hood.

By Walker Simon

NEW YORK (REUTERS).- As a pop art pioneer, Andy Warhol blazed his way to fame with trademark Brillo soap pad boxes and silk-screens of Campbell’s Soup cans.

But a new museum exhibit shows pop art was just a seven-year phase for Warhol in the 1960s, before his 1980s plunge into abstract art and Christian imagery, particularly his versions of “The Last Supper.”

Flippant, brazen and flamboyant as an art world personality, Warhol long kept private his devout, lifelong Catholicism.

“Only his closest confidants knew he was a religious person and frequently went to Mass,” said Sharon Matt Atkins, coordinating curator of the Brooklyn Museum exhibit “Andy Warhol: The Last Decade,” which opens on June 18.

Little known is that Warhol attended church in the plush, Upper East Side of Manhattan, a world away from his famed downtown Factory studio complex, frequented by the eccentric and outlandish,

In his middle age, he began exploring religious themes in his art.

“After Warhol turned 50, he began a reassessment of his career,” Atkins said. “We also start to see Warhol reflecting on the inevitability of his own death.”

In the year before he died — at age 58 in 1987 — Warhol created more than 100 works that were offshoots of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” fresco in Milan.

“For an artist obsessed with death … the Lord’s final repast functioned as the consummate disaster painting,” Joseph Ketner said in the exhibition catalog,

“The image of Christ and disciples obsessed him,” added Ketner, who curated the show for the Milwaukee Art Museum, where the exhibition was first on view.

Three of the show’s Last Supper works are monumental, ranging between 25 feet to 35 feet in length, one of which is bathed in canary yellow.

Another piece juxtaposes a quartet of Christs with a trio of motorcycles, a swooping red eagle and a $6.99 price tag, emblematic of Warhol’s outward irreverence but also revealing of his inner spirituality, according to Atkins.

The largest canvas has 112 portraits of Christ, recalling repeated icons in Byzantine art, said Atkins.

Warhol’s parents, immigrants from Slovakia, raised him as a Byzantine Catholic, a denomination which had a church in the artist’s native Pittsburgh.

Warhol’s turning to abstract art, also after age 50, dominates the exhibition’s first section. The influence of Jackson Pollock’s jumbled drip paintings is clear in Warhol’s series “Yarn.”

Like a cat’s cradle, it features intertwined hoops and loops, in a scramble of colors such as lemon-yellow, asparagus-green and coral pink.

The Brooklyn Museum exhibition includes videos from Warhol’s TV series including his MTV program “Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes,” Atkins said. Warhol predicted in the 1960s that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.

But the show’s program excerpt lasts only 15 seconds.

(Reporting by Walker Simon; Editing by Patricia Reaney)


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Word Made Fresh – The Book of Genesis by R. Crumb

Sept/Oct/Nov 2009

Word Made Fresh

R. Crumb gives visual form to the first book of the Bible

Jeet Heer

In the beginning, there was a father who craved respectability; he begat a bad boy who enjoyed shocking polite society. The father was Max Gaines, one of the founders of the American comic-book industry and publisher of the early adventures of the Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. Stung by criticisms that comics were corrupting America’s youth, Max rebranded himself as a purveyor of uplifting material, releasing Picture Stories from the Bible in 1942 and soon thereafter starting a firm called Educational Comics. After Max died in 1947, his wayward, mischief-loving son, Bill, took charge of the firm. Unlike his dad, Bill didn’t shy away from the reputation comic books had for sensationalism. EC, which now stood for Entertaining Comics, became a clearinghouse for blood-drenched horror titles such as Tales from the Crypt, as well as for the irreverent Mad. These taboo-breaking comics, sold for a dime to any kid who wanted to read them, provoked a hornet’s nest of censorious opposition.

Although Max and Bill Gaines had antithetical aims, both are precursors to Robert Crumb in his Book of Genesis Illustrated. Like Max, Crumb has returned to the sacred text at the heart of Western civilization, but the result is a comic as unsettlingly drenched in sexualized violence as Tales from the Crypt and as subversively disrespectful to cultural icons as Mad. Those familiar only with the Crumb of the ’60s and ’70s, the sex-obsessed chronicler of Mr. Natural and Fritz the Cat, may be surprised to learn that he has a bookish side. Since the early ’80s, he has been releasing a remarkable series of literary adaptations, faithfully and lovingly based on scenes from works such as James Boswell’s London Journal, Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis, Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea, and Franz Kafka’s stories. These are all works of literary extremism, focused on scenes of heightened feelings and antisocial behavior. Crumb’s Book of Genesis is the culmination of his Classics Illustrated impulse. As he did in earlier adaptations, the artist embraces a volatile, often abrasive text soaked through with lust and blood.

But The Book of Genesis Illustrated is far more ambitious than Crumb’s previous adaptations, which tended to be only a few pages long. This time, he has tackled a sizable text, all fifty chapters of Genesis, omitting very little (such as “and Bethuel,” on the scholarly grounds that these two words were added by a scribal interloper). The completeness of this version is important, because, as Crumb rightly complains, every other comics adaptation seems to have been streamlined and modernized, often to make the shocking old stories palatable to readers, especially kids. In the rendition of Noah’s story in Picture Stories from the Bible, for instance, no mention is made of Ham seeing his illustrious father naked and earning a curse for the transgression. In the 1975 DC Comics “Limited Collectors’ Edition” of the Bible, the sin of the men of Sodom seems to be that they are too greedy, and any hint of homosexual rape is carefully avoided.

Unlike these bowdlerized versions, Crumb’s doesn’t hide the fact that the holy book is filled with stories of incest (Abraham marrying his half sister, Sarah; Lot being seduced by his daughter), frenzied bloodlust (God’s various acts of mass murder, the terrible slaughter of a village after a young boy seduces Jacob’s daughter, Dinah), and general unsavory behavior (the theme of fraternal violence that runs from the story of Cain and Abel to the concluding saga of Joseph and his spiteful siblings). Images can cut deeper than words, especially when those images are executed by so psychologically alert an artist as Crumb. It’s one thing to read about the daughters of Lot seducing their father in a desperate attempt to repopulate their tribe after the destruction of Sodom; it’s quite another to see Crumb’s depiction of the sodden Lot, his eyes in a daze, straddled by a zaftig Amazon who looks vaguely troubled by her reproductive mission.

Crumb describes his adaptation as being “literal,” a rather loaded word in biblical circles. The idea takes many forms: There is the literalism of the fundamentalist, convinced that the Bible is the inerrant and inspired word of God, but there is also the literalism of modern scholars and translators, who use archaeology and philology to uncover what the words in this ancient text meant. In striving to be literal, Crumb has leaned heavily on Robert Alter’s 2004 translation, which hews to the Hebrew text. Yet in his attempt to mimic the syntax and formal diction of biblical Hebrew, Alter occasionally sounds stilted. Crumb has in some instances wisely rewritten him or reverted to earlier translations in the interest of fluency. Alter’s Jacob rhetorically asks his wife, Rachel, “Am I instead of God, Who has denied you fruit of the womb?” Crumb’s Jacob talks more plainly: “So, then, it’s me, not God, who has denied you fruit of the womb!?” The exclamation mark is a nice touch, in keeping with Crumb’s tendency to use the exaggerated effects of the cartooning tradition (such as the sweat drops that issue profusely from his characters whenever they exert themselves).

In general, Crumb’s tendency is to simplify Alter and bring the text closer to the vernacular. But being literal is not the same as being impartial or withholding interpretation. The language of Genesis is extremely terse and suggestive, opening itself up to countless retellings. Crumb’s personal views are bodied forth in his drawings, which frequently undermine or question the text. The words alone tell us nothing about how Dinah reacted to the murder of her sexual assailant (and would-be husband), Shechem, but a heartrending panel by Crumb suggests the possibility that the vengeance was far greater than anything she wanted. Surprisingly, given his reputation as the chief sexist of underground comics, Crumb has taken a strongly feminist slant on Genesis. Influenced, as he notes in the commentary, by scholars like Savina Teubal, Crumb sees within the book a struggle between two religious systems: the familiar patriarchal God of the fathers (whose story runs from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Joseph) existing side by side with a covert matrilineal traditional of powerful women (including Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel).

Following Teubal, Crumb places considerable emphasis on a puzzling tale found in chapter 12, where Abraham and Sarah travel to Egypt. He tells her to hide the fact that she’s his wife and say she’s his sister. Following these instructions, Sarah lives inside Pharaoh’s house, and possibly as a result of this arrangement, Abraham prospers. But then Pharaoh is cursed by a plague and discovers the truth, leading him to cast Abraham and Sarah out of Egypt. (This tale is twice reworked in Genesis, once with Abraham and Sarah again pretending to be only siblings, and once with Isaac and Rebekah doing the same.) Teubal makes sense of these bizarre stories by positing that Sarah and Rebekah had social roles akin to priestesses in other ancient civilizations. As such, they would have been allowed to enter into temporary sacred marriages with powerful men, such as Pharaoh, as a means of building tribal alliances. If these marriages or alliances proved inauspicious, they would have been broken. While speculative, Teubal’s analysis is deeply suggestive and allows Crumb to give an added emotional charge to his interpretation. In his account, the sacred marriage is almost an act of pimping: Sarah is stiff with anger and weeps when she hears what Abraham wants of her. Interestingly, Crumb follows Teubal rather than Alter in describing Hagar as a “handmaid” rather than a “slavegirl,” in keeping with the aim of seeing the biblical matriarchs as agents in their destinies instead of passive victims of male domination.

As presented in the Bible, the characters in Genesis have no internal lives: We see them speak and act, with little sense of their motivations. When a primary character (God or one of the patriarchs) speaks at length, we can only guess at how the words were received. Crumb’s major interpretive act is to offer reaction shots to this biblical speech making. When God tells Noah that divine justice demands the destruction of almost all life on earth, the poor farmer is aghast. In chapter 35, Jacob calls on the members of his household to cleanse themselves and destroy their idols. The text is silent about their reactions, but Crumb shows the women of the family quietly crying as they hand over their beloved objects.

Among its many riches, Genesis is a book about bodies, a book where men and women constantly grapple with one another, where a servant swears an oath by putting his hand under his master’s thigh, where even angels are threatened with sexual violation. Crumb has long been the preeminent cartoonist of the body. His women are notoriously full-figured, with ample butts and protruding nipples (a motif he uses in this book). But more significantly, the bodies he draws—whether they are quivering or standing still, dancing or drooping—have a visceral impact few artists can match. That’s why he was the perfect cartoonist to illustrate the Book of Genesis, a fitting capstone to a great career.

Jeet Heer is a Toronto-based cultural journalist and the editor of numerous collections of classic comic strips.

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hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily

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The Flying Wishes


Tibetan prayer flags

by toey™

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The Mayan Caper


“I suggested that such a hermetic control system would be completely disoriented and shattered by even one person who tampered with the control calendar…”

William S. Burroughs

From Primate Poetics:

Jennie Skerl’s 1985 book was one of (if not the) first books in which Burroughs was taken as subject for serious academic study…Here is what she writes about Burroughs’ use of Mayan imagery in ‘The Soft Machine’

The priest-rulers are associated with the power imagery Burroughs uses for his Mayan and Minraud fantasies. Puerto Joselito is Burrough’s reinterpretation of Frazier’s ‘The Golden Bough’ and a critique of religion in Reichian terms. It is both an homage to and a reinterpretation of ‘The Waste Land’.

The theme of power is given its most detailed treatment in ‘The Mayan Caper’, a historical fantasy on Mayan civilization (seventh routine). ‘The Mayan Caper’ is the single most significant section of the ‘The Soft Machine’ because of its central placement in the text, because it is the longest sustained narrative, and because it gives the most straightforward exposition of how a control system can be dismantled. The Mayans are presented both as the historical beginning and the epitome of “civilization”: a social order in which a few control the many through manipulation of word and image. Literacy only makes the system more sophisticated. The Mayan priest-ruler class controls the mass of peasants through their calendar, a word-and-image system that orders time, space, and human behaviour. The calendar is the basis for the Mayan’s agricultural economy, their hierarchical system of classes, and their religion. The priests exert total mind control and thus have total mastery over the peasant’s bodies. The power imagery associated with the Mayans is the same as that of the Minraud people in the Nova mythology: religious sacrifice, insects, ants, centipedes, scorpions, crabs, lobsters, claws, white heat, and the city. The first part of the ‘I Sekuin’ routine, which immediately follows ‘The Mayan Caper’, makes the link to Minraud explicit and again emphasizes the importance of the Mayan fantasy as the classic type of all control systems.

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Secret/Sacred Object Returns to Oz


National Museum of Australia Director Craddock Morton accepts a secret/sacred object from central Australia from Pamela McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art, Seattle Art Museum. Photo: Lannon Harley.

Seattle Art Museum Returns Important Australian Aboriginal Secret/Sacred Object to Australia

SEATTLE, WA.- The Seattle Art Museum has decided to repatriate an important central Australian Aboriginal secret/sacred object to Australia. 

The return is particularly significant as it marks the first time that an American collecting institution has independently initiated the return of a secret/ sacred object to Australia. 

Secret/sacred objects of the type being returned are typically used in religious ceremonies by central Australian Aboriginal men. They are considered to be physical manifestations of sacred ancestral beings and as such have great spiritual power. 

The National Museum of Australia has been providing advice and assistance to the Seattle Art Museum and will store the object temporarily while consultations proceed regarding its final repatriation. 

“The National Museum of Australia is honoured to have been able to assist in this way. The Seattle Art Museum has shown great responsibility, as well as compassion and respect for Aboriginal culture, in deciding to repatriate this object. It is to be commended for its initiative and leadership,” said Craddock Morton, Director of the National Museum of Australia. 

According to custom, central Australian mens’ secret/sacred objects are not allowed to be viewed by uninitiated men, or women and children. Their public display is a cause of great distress to Aboriginal elders, who have been seeking their return for many years. 

“We appreciate The National Museum of Australia’s guidance through this return process,” said Maryann Jordan, Seattle Art Museum’s Interim Director. “The Seattle Art Museum is one of the few places in the U.S. for Australian Aboriginal art to be seen and discussed. We have a deep respect for Aboriginal heritage and understand the importance of this object to the culture that created it. We are proud to return it to its rightful home.” 

The Director of the National Museum of Australia’s Repatriation Program, Dr Michael Pickering, said that the object will be housed in a restricted store while the Museum consults with central Australian Elders and their representatives to determine the culturally appropriate management and return of the object. 
The object was first collected in 1970, and has been in the Seattle Art Museum’s collections since 1971 but has never been publicly exhibited


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Moses: Stoned Immaculate


High on Mount Sinai, Moses was on psychedelic drugs when he heard God deliver the Ten Commandments, an Israeli researcher claimed in a study published this week.

Such mind-altering substances formed an integral part of the religious rites of Israelites in biblical times, Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote in the Time and Mind journal of philosophy.

“As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don’t believe, or a legend, which I don’t believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics,” Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.

Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the “burning bush,” suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances.

“The Bible says people see sounds, and that is a clasic phenomenon,” he said citing the example of religious ceremonies in the Amazon in which drugs are used that induce people to “see music.”

He mentioned his own experience when he used ayahuasca, a powerful psychotropic plant, during a religious ceremony in Brazil’s Amazon forest in 1991. “I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations,” Shanon said.

He said the psychedelic effects of ayahuasca were comparable to those produced by concoctions based on bark of the acacia tree, that is frequently mentioned in the Bible.

via Breitbart

hat tip Adam B | KSU Quorum

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