'Jesus Retched; Watching Kids Sneak up to Kill a Homeless Man' by Kata Billups
'Jesus Retched; Watching Kids Sneak up to Kill a Homeless Man' by Kata Billups:
TITLE: Jesus Retched as He Watched Little
Children Encircling a Homeless Man
This is one of the most complex paintings of my career-
The scene shows Jesus (at the far left) leaning on an angel
and pukinginto a bowl she is holding.
He is having a gut reaction to a horrific scene...
Littlechildren in the Charlestonmarket are sneaking
up on a homeless man.
Their cruelty and complete lack of empathy is
underscored bytheir ages.
(most of them) under the age of twelve.
As an aside Iasked some of my friend's children to pose
for this scene in the actual Charleston market.
Back to thestory...
The children have been "marketed" things that arevisually implied -
by the logoson the T-shirts which hang to the far right...
GAP, OP,American Psycho and Hannibal.
These are thethings that fill their psyches.
The paintingstarted to disturb me as I worked on it.
can childrenreally be THIS wicked?
That day Iwas watching a T.V. show as I painted.
The host (Monel W.) wasdiscussing gut-wrenchingly
some of thesurvivors were on the show.
One woman hadbeen dragged from her car, raped,
shot in the head and left to die in the woods
by sheer willto live (and I'd say - probably - God's help) ...
she draggedher almost lifeless body to the road where she
was seen by a passing car
who took herto the hospital
I listened asI painted I reassured myself-
"Kata.this painting is NOT too dark.
This stuff isreally happening.
Then Ichanged channels and caught a movie which was in progress.
It was ascene in a dining room.
Hannibal was talking tosomeone of camera- and stirring
something in a fondue dish.
the nextscene- showed the victim
helplesslyseated beside the fondue dish
and in adrugged stupor-
unaware thatthe top of his skull had been cut off-
and that aportion of his brain was being sautéed.
I felt myselfbegin to gag and I stumbled over to the
T.V. to shut it off.
A couple weeks later as the painting progressed-
the nationalnews captured footage of a homeless man
being doused with gasoline by youngchildren.
Thisconfirmed my initial motivation for the painting.
and confirmedto my naive self
that thisstuff is REALLY happening...
This verylarge painting is (at its core) about the decline
of empathy in our society.
After Icompleted this piece a friend invited me to show it to her
church Bible studygroup.
Most of thein the group people were over thirty.
One deaconwas very upset and told me the painting was
disturbing and too dark to haveJesus in.
I left themeeting a bit perturbed.
As I waited for my friend to bring the car around
to load up thepainting-
A Mother withthree cute girls walked by.
the paintingcaught their attention.
The small girlsstopped and stood around my painting-
they began totalk with a LOT of emotion-
"LOOK!the kids are going to HURT that man!"
"will hebe OK?"
Theyunderstood the content because this is their world now
a darkerworld than most people over thirty or forty
have ever imagined...
The piece hasa blood red moon in the upper right hand
corner which most people understandhas Biblical significance
(having to dowith prophecies concerning the end
of time as we know it...)
The angel inthe center of the painting holds a flame
(signifying God's presence, holinessand wisdom)
to suggestthat she could be invisible to the little girl
she stands in front of-
The angel'sfinger presses lightly into the girl's forehead
(as if to give her wisdom - to not joinher friends in their
I could go onand on about this piece.
It is themost Renaissance like work of my entire career.
MORE PERTINENT DETAILS:
This paintingwas created while I was in Graduate School searching
for away to express Jesus the way I experience Him
(not the way2,000 plus years of art have portrayed Him).
The smallpicture in the bottom right shows a rough drawing for the
piece before I beganpainting.
It is verysimilar to the finished piece- but along the way I decided to
delete a trashcan that's in the sketch-
and to add acouple additional characters like a spiteful boy in a wheelchair.
who heartlesslypokes a dead cat with his stick...
oh and anotheraside here-
I had a socialworker become enraged at this painting- she said "this is not right!handicapped children are very empathetic!"
so I guess Kata's work is definitely not in line with political correctness eh?
In my opinion-any kid (handicapped or not) can be grievously affected by this culture)...
Back to thepainting-
While workingtoward my goal
(searchingfor a way to express Jesus the way I experienced Him)
I began tosee a pattern emerge in the images of Jesus
which I had been pondering -
and hadplastered across one of my studio walls (picture of that coming soon...).
I started torealize that in most paintings Jesus was generally
portrayed as stoic, uninvolvedand removed (EMOTIONLESS)
yet- thecharacters surrounding him displayed the full gamut of human emotion.
This began to strike me as a tragedy because
if there wereever a time in history when the people of the world wondered
or WHO isJesus REALLY...?"
You may beasking by now-
Why does mostof the art work for the past two thousand years depict Jesus
as stoic,uninvolved and removed
from what hecalls His body?
My GraduateTHESIS addressesthis and many other questions.
I think thathistorians will very likely find my work unprecedented in the
history of artfor several reasons.
The mainreason why I believe historians will conclude that my work is
unprecedented inthe history of Christian art is this "missing link"
between Christianart and Jesus' emotions.
I challengethe reader to visit any major museum in the world and
take some time looking atthe religious icons and other periods
of imagery about Jesus.
If you findone painting or sculpture with Jesus portrayed with a
human emotion (with theONE exception of Jesus driving the
money changers out of the temple) I ask youto contact me.
When I givethis challenge to Christian friends they have been quick
to site a recentlymade sketch of a laughing Jesus.
I am notwilling to include that sketch as an example of a real break
from the traditionI am explaining of painting or sculpting Jesus
without emotion for a fewreasons
which I willnot elaborate on here.
But sufficeit to say, this is the only singular emotion that artist has
portrayed Jesuswith (to my knowledge)
and so theartist's body of work seems to lack a comprehensive understanding of thistopic.
Anotherreason why I speculate that historians will view my work as unprecedented inthe history of Christian art is because this topic is one of the mostcontroversial topics in Christendom.
I elaboratemore on that as well in my THESIS.
FURTHER NOTES FROM KATA: Our culture is becomingincreasingly antagonistic to Christians.
One reason is because many Christianshave escaped in to a safe and cozy sub culture.
They speak the Christian lingo,go to Christian bookstores and hang out with other Christians.
Granted, formany new Christians there may be a fine line between being in this world andnot of it -but for the mature in Christ- we've been left here for a greatcommission (to heal the sick raise the dead -etc.)
not to escape from the worldbut to be the ice cutters- the game changers in our dark societies. As aChristian artist for over forty years, I have grappled with the question of howto represent Jesus in my work.
I've come to the conclusion that Christian artis like any other art- in that if it authentically represents the unique'voice'
of the artist it is valid. If it is syrupy, sentimental, and simplyparrots the acceptable Christian jargon of the day -
then it is not valid. Howdo we show His interaction in our daily lives? Who is He to us?
How do wecommunicate that in our art work? These are some of the most important questions
because images of Christ not only reflect personal attitudes toward the LordJesus Christ,
but define perimeters for people to experience and reflect on Hisbeing. During the time of the reformation, the risk of painting Christ wasenormous.
If patrons disliked the scriptural bias of an artist's work thatartist would quickly go broke.
Most painters resorted to painting portraits andlandscapes for this very reason.
Rembrandt was one of the only renowned artistsof his generation who had the guts to continue to paint Christ. More recently,during the twentieth century, only two or three well known artists dared totackle the subject of Christ.
Many people are not aware that the stoic,non-emotional Jesus who appears in artwork throughout the past
twenty centuriesis not based on the canon of the Bible. The passive, stoic and emotionallyremoved Jesus we typically see dates back to the Classical ideals of thedivine.
The Greeks and Romans looked to their Classic authors such as Plato todescribe the gods.
They were explained by Plato as aloof and other-worldly.
They were shown as stoic and removed.
Sound like any pictures of Christ youhave seen lately? During my three years as a Master of Fine Arts student ,
Isought a way to portray Jesus which was culturally relevant and resonated withmy experience of Christ.
I do not have a new age bias, as some uninformedviewers of my artwork might initially assume.
My work is, however postmodern,and emotive. My thesis research led me to understand that few people feelcomfortable envisioning Jesus as an emotional being.
This is curious since theBible clearly states that He wept at Lazarus' grave.
The problem is that ourculture considers emotions to be diametrically opposed to sound thinking andlogic.
This is not accurate. Emotions are never devoid of intellectualprocesses and cultural context. Emotions are being studied scientifically andit is recently understood that they involve complex higher thought processes.
Machines do not have emotions.
Jesus used wit and satire in his arsenal againstthe hypocritical, judgmental Pharisees.
I believe that these two forms ofspeech require both intellect and emotion.
My paintings are modern day parableswhich reveal Jesus' interaction in the lives of 21st century Americans likemyself.
They show him responding and reacting to His friends.
This is how Ienvision Jesus, (as the One who is not ashamed to call us brethren.)
I alsoenvision Him as a Savior who is creative enough and ingenious enough totransform societies,
lives and cultures without breaching an individuals freewill.
COMMENTARY BY A WRITER, ARTIST
and COLLECTOR named Jock Stender:
THE SOIL KATA DISTURBS HERE TAKESME TO
GUSTAV COURBET, EMILE ZOLA, ARTHUR RIMBAUD,
ALAN GINSBERG, PHILIP GLASS,
KURT SCHWITTERS, ROBERT MOTHERWELL,
FRANZ KAFKA, ANDRE BRETON, T.S. ELIOT,
D.H.LAWRENCE, OSCAR WILDE, LAURIE ANDERSON,
AND SAINT PAUL. THE AIRBORNECHILD CONNECTED
TO EARTH SOLELY BY HER CATLIKE SHADOW IS FOR
ME A FULCRUM INTHIS MORALITY PLAY OF LIGHT'S
EFFECT ON CHARACTERS. IT IS SUBLIME ANDDRAWS
VIEWERS LIKE ME BACK TO LITERALLY STUDY AGAIN. IT'S A COMPLEX DRAMA OFLIFE IN HEAVEN AND EARTH,
NOT SIMPLE. THE MARKET IS A MAMMOTH PRESENT-DAY
ALLEGORY, A CANVAS OF MANY DIMENSIONS
INCLUDING TIME -- PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE;SPACE;
ACTION (ALL OF THE CHARACTERS),
STILL LIFE (THE DEAD CAT), EMOTION,DIRECTION,
AND THE FABULOUS CHRIST CHARACTER AND ANGELS. THE JUMPING / FLYINGGIRL'S GRAY-AND-WHITE-AND-PINK DRESS, LEGS AND FEET IN SILHOUETTE
ARE FOR MEJUST ARRESTING PHYSICALLY AND
MORALLY. THIS PAINTING IS A MASTERPIECE.
CATEGORIES OF WORK:
This piece is category 1.
a PRIMARY ORIGINAL of my work.
1. PRIMARY ORIGINALS
One Primary Original work of art can take me weeks, months or even years to create.
I generally create only five to twenty pieces of this type work per year.
They are also not merely a re-painting of my PRIMARY ORIGINALSbecause each one contains new artistic- discoveries.
which never occurred in the PRIMARY ORIGINALS.
They become an extension- a continuation of the PRIMARY ORIGINALS
fromwhich they are inspired.I typically spend a week, two weeks or even longer on each piece.
All these pieces are ethically technically legally
3. REPLICA ORIGINALS
Unlike the VERSIONS of WORK category,(see 2. above)
these pieces are as close to being identical to the PRIMARY ORIGINALSas I can possibly manage.
The only exception being the frames.
They are entirely hand-painted (generally smaller) replicas of certain Primary Originals
NOTE:I'VE BEEN CREATING WORK IN CATEGORIES 2 AND 3 FOR APPROXIMATELY 20 TO 30 YEARS-
BUT BY THE END OF 2021 I HAVE DETERMINED TO COMPLETELY DISCONTINUE NEW CREATIONS IN THESE CATEGORIES.
I MADE THIS DECISION TO FOCUS MY ATTENTION ON
OTHER CREATIVE VENTURES SUCH AS THE OPENING OF MY FIRST PHYSICAL GALLERY,
CREATING NEW PRIMARY ORIGINALS,
MY YOUTUBE PRODUCTIONS AND SEVERAL SPIRITUAL GOALS.
IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING PURCHASING A PIECE IN THIS CATEGORY THIS COULD BE VERY GOOD NEWS FOR YOU
FOR SEVERAL REASONS. HERE ARE JUST A COUPLE OF THOSE REASONS...
1. IT IS HISTORICALLY VALUABLE TO OWN PIECES THAT CONSTITUTE THE LAST IN THE SERIES OF AN ARTIST'S WORK.
2. LIMITING THE AMOUNT OF PIECES IN CIRCULATION ELEVATES THE POTENTIAL
FOR AN ARTIST'S WORK TO APPRECIATE. THIS IS SIMPLY STATED IN THE OLD ADAGE 'SUPPLY AND DEMAND'.
'Jesus Retched; Watching Kids Sneak up to Kill a Homeless Man' by Kata Billups: