Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jesus is my Homeboy- Simplicity to create complexities

Emily Brady
New Testament in Art
Presentation Due Monday April 12, 2010

Jesus is my Homeboy – David Lachapelle

David Lachapelle has been a controversial artist in the past decade, producing and releasing images depicting sexuality, society, fame, materialism, and religion. With his beginnings in editorial fashion, Lachapelle developed into much more than just a photographer. He worked with many artistic outlets including video production, music video work, and theatre. Throughout his career, Lachapelle wished to covey an editorial reality, a contemporary twist on our lives.
Some would consider his work profanity, some even pornography, but others reference him as the most famous and progressive artist and photographer of this generation. Many of his photographs force those viewing it to look within themselves to possibly find insecurities, flaws, and repression.
I will examine a photograph produced by Lachapelle from his collection “Jesus is my Homeboy”. This piece was completed and displayed in a London art gallery in 2008 along with five other works that depict Jesus in modern or urban settings. He wished to portray Jesus in today’s society and depict where and who he would be associating with. Lachapelle was brought up in a Catholic home, being exposed to images of Jesus throughout his life. In interviews, Lachapelle says he wanted the ‘Jesus is my Homeboy’ collection to convey an anti-fundamentalist view, as well as his personal take on Jesus as a historical figure relocated into modern society.
He wanted to ‘rescue the teachings of Christ in a small way, through art.” He wanted to show his personal ability to ‘see through the fundamentalist rhetoric and judgment” and show what Jesus’ followers would look like today. He explicitly indicates that he did not wish to shock or create irony with these works, but to update or interpret Jesus in a new way. When Lachapelle saw a t-shirt with the writing ‘Jesus is my Homeboy’ he loved the simplicity of the statement and throughout his production of his collection, kept that simplicity in his mind and in his work.
Four major aspects of this work that stood out to me were dress, ey placement, location, and light. Lachapelle is known for his usage of color and light throughout all of his works, and this piece is no different. There seem to be two sources of light in this photograph, one extremely bright source behind Jesus’ head, the other from the door way on the left of the picture.
Overall this photo is dim lit, thus extenuating the light’s presence. The light from behind Jesus’ head is obviously the light he brought into the world, and the light he is brings to those he encounters. The light from the door way could be interpreted in many ways. That light source is far dimmer than the one of Jesus, and I looked at it as the small emission of light from the kind people in the world. As the picture is dark, so is the world.

The second major aspect I will address in this picture is location. As we have seen throughout historical paintings, Jesus is usually shown in majestic mountain scenes, a luscious garden, or a beautiful countryside. This modern take on Jesus puts him inside a dirty home, presumably small and in a lower income area. I interpreted this as Lachapelle’s way of showing how Jesus would not be socializing and staying in the Marriott downtown, but in a run-down house, socializing with the ‘outcasts’. I see this as a very important aspect of this piece and of this collection.
Another key aspect to this painting is eye placement. Jesus’ eyes are raised upward, while the woman’s eyes are closed. I thought this was interesting because I interpreted it as showing how Jesus would not look down on her as society does. The woman, presumably a prostitute, would be looked down on and ridiculed for her lifestyle. Jesus’ eyes are showing compassion, respect, and humility, while many people’s eyes would be drawn to woman in little clothing in judgment.

The last key aspect I will discuss is that of dress. An extremely interesting part of this collection is that Lachapelle chose to show Jesus is clothing that he presumably wore, a Middle Eastern robe, while he updated the rest of the character’s wardrobes. At first I wondered if this was allow Jesus to stand out in the picture, but from further research and interpretation I believe it to be the artists way of showing how no matter what time in history Jesus would be placed in, he would still be teaching and conveying the same thing. As he discussed in his interview, he wished to reclaim Jesus’ pure teachings, and not allow materialism, and judgment by religious groups to contaminate the original teachings.

This picture does present a new concept that allows the viewer to look inward, especially those that claim to be religious, and ask themselves if they are doing what Jesus would do. By placing a traditional Jesus into a modern day setting, it provokes questions surrounding different church’s policies, personal practice, and faith. I would argue that most faiths would accept that Jesus, if placed in modern day, would socialize with the outcasts, but seeing this picture, would question themselves and their work.

This picture depicts John 12:3 where Mary anoints the feet of Jesus and wipes them with her hair. I interpret this verse as meaning we should all take the place of servants for others. As another verse says, we should do this for the least of our brothers, and in this picture, Lachapelle uses a figure that is seen through society’s lens as an outcast to portray someone doing as they should. Then in turn, if we should do this for the least of our brothers, it includes those seen as outcasts.

This picture challenges us to see Jesus for who he was, and look inward at our faith and ourselves. Would we be someone Jesus would socialize with? Would we look down on those in society that are considered outcasts? This picture uses light, location, modernity, and juxtaposition to portray Lachapelle’s sincere simplicity of Jesus’ teachings.

My first response to this picture was mixed emotions to be honest. I was brought up in the Catholic faith, and we always hear teachings about how Jesus hung out with the outcasts, and associated with tax collectors and prostitutes. Through no picture or image was ever associated with these teachings. It was not offensive to see Jesus having his feet washed and anointed by a prostitute, but having her bent down in a submissive fashion does create some controversy.
Then after researching how and why Lachapelle chose to produce this collection it makes sense! He wanted to show the world what type of people Jesus would be associating with, and it allows for many interpretations of the Bible with a literal modern lens. I am interested to see how the class will respond!

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