Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Of all the pictures one might come across searching for the Temptation of Christ, one wouldn’t expect to stumble upon the American artist Kreg Yingst’s odd mixed media of it. This picture is from the series he did in 2000 called “Matt: A Visual Gospel” (, which depicts some significant scenes found throughout the anonymous gospel within the New Testament (supposedly written by a man named Matthew).

The story from the New Testament this mixed media was chosen from tells about Jesus being sent into the desert by God in order to be tempted by Satan (so that he may deny him and prove himself). After forty days of fasting, Satan tries to persuade Jesus three times to get him to break his bond with God by asking him to show his inherent power (by turning rocks to bread and by calling the angels to help him when he’s about to get injured) and at one point even tries to get Jesus to worship Satan in exchange for thegain of entire cities. When Satan realized he would not break Jesus’s bond with the heavenly Father, he high tailed it out of there leaving Jesus with angels that “waited on him”. The part of this story that is depicted by Yingst is when Satan presents what he could gain by worshipping him.

The 7” by 4” picture shows a very colorful gameshow scene with Satan as the colorful host and Jesus as the sort of bland current participant of the game. In this piece, Satan is trying to tempt the participant of the game (Jesus) with the fantastic prizes of whatever is behind the doors “riches”, “power”, and “desire”, giving Jesus a “green for go” and “red for no” buzzer. Even though the doors seem to be a background effect in the artwork, they actually pose the most significance when it comes to the meaning of the temptation piece as a whole.

The first door labeled “desire” is referring to the part of the temptation story where Satan tries to get Jesus to turn rocks into bread to show his true power (Yingst). The second door labeled “power” refers to the portion of the story in which Satan wants Jesus to show him his ability to control the angels by leaping off the building they’re on (Yingst). The final door labeled “riches” refers to the last temptation Satan tries to present Jesus by promising him kingdoms if Jesus bows down to him (Yingst). Even though the doors are colorful and the labels are tempting (like Satan’s “prizes” in the original gospel) in this portrait, Jesus is shown in the picture pushing the red buzzer and denying all three doors (like Jesus refused Satan all three times in the gospel), suggesting he’s not interested in the prizes he could get by participatng in Satan’s game. Not only is there a general theme of the gameshow, but there seems to be a lot more to this piece of art regarding the detail of the characters Satan and Jesus.

Satan stands out the most in this picture in contrast with Jesus and is portrayed by the American arist in almost a cliché way: a ruby-red man with the horns of possibly a goat or of some other animal. On the other hand, Jesus is represented in the picture as a bald man with a very bland blue suit and not in the cliché’ way he is often represented by American artists (young, dark brown hair, and a beard, wearing long, flowing white robes).

Even though the viewer of the painting knows of how this Satan character is shown as an evil being (from the Bible), Yingst decides to put a slight twist on Satan by showing him as friendly (making him seemingly more persuasive). Yingst does this by putting Satan in bright colorful clothing, with sunglasses, and a huge “go-getter” grin while Jesus is conservatively shown (he was also humble in the Biblical story). On top of the fact Satan looks friendly, he is shown as a gameshow host (and they are always portrayed in Amercican-based shows as extremely approachable). All of these qualities make Satan the perfect tempter, but not a good enough tempter to sway the Jesus participant to choose one of the prize doors or to sway Jesus from his alliance with God. The image source:

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