even when it’s tacky as all get out. Andrew Brown at the Guardian has a short post about bad Jesus art, a topic I can’t seem to leave alone. He includes a link to Ship of Fools and their Gadgets for God section. I wish I’d found that when I wrote my “Why can’t artists leave Jesus alone?” post. I think the gadgets are less about art and more about the lure of consumerism and money making, but they’re entertaining to look at, nonetheless. I can’t imagine why people would want them, except as curiosities. And yet, there’s no doubt the faithfull find this stuff in a shop somewhere and can’t help but believe God or Jesus meant for them to have it. And then they’ll open both their hearts and their wallets…
Considered just as art, it makes you want to wash your eyes with bleach. But there is no doubt that there’s a worked out symbol system here, which means a lot to believers, and could be translated into coherent and fairly sensible prose. That hints, in fact, at what is wrong, artistically. The intended audience knows what is meant far too well to see what is actually there, right in front of their eyes.
What’s actually there is evidence that belief tends to trump sense. A 10 commandments poster seems like a reasonable purchase, maybe. Never mind that there’s a copy in every bible in the house already, but whatever. Does a person really need a 10 commandment blanket? To celebrate Easter, some go to church and walk the stations of the cross. Is it necessary to bring a neon light-up set home for your lawn or roof as well? I fail to see how wearing Jesus Loves You flip flops to the beach is going to make anyone a better Christian, be it the wearer or those reading what’s left behind. Anyone looking to sell their home in this market might need the equivalent of a miracle but will a statue of St. Joseph (patron saint of homes) actually make a sale happen faster?
I think some people have an emotional attachment to their religions in the way others get attached to Star Wars memorabilia or the wares typically sold at comic conventions. I was pissed off for days after losing my Star Trek sound effects key chain. A friend of mine has a “Trouble with Tribbles” ornament that drops tribbles on Kirk’s head and quotes the episode. I was so envious of that thing, I was plotting ways to steal it last Christmas.
It’s all about feeling connected to something greater than we are by ourselves. Art can unify us. Architecture. Pop culture. Small wonder we’ll glom onto trinkets that we think speak to us as individuals even when they’re mass produced. It’s somewhat soothing to know someone else in the world has probably bought the same silly thing for the same silly reason. Like kindred spirits, maybe.
What kind of “collectables” have you spent your money on?
I’m one of those horribly bland people that do not buy stuff like that. But I do collect flashlights. It’s hard for me to pass up a flashlight. I buy one about every month.
ordinary flashlights or funky flashlights? I like the ones for little kids that are shaped like animals and when their mouths open the light comes on. I used to have a hand powered flashlight when I was younger.