|Miss Anna and I at the Gallery Project in Ann Arbor where the piece was originally displayed.|
I am a closet Catholic; I will freely admit that fact. I grew up in a very plain and ordinary Congregational church with little decoration or art in the sanctuary. The artwork that the church did have was relegated to the narthex or the hallways of the building. The only time the church ever swayed from this blandness was during the Christmas season when two simple trees were put on the altar and adorned with plain white lights and ornaments.
My Catholic friends were lucky to go to church in spectacular buildings full or art and statuary with windows that resembled kaleidoscopes straight from the hand of God himself. I was jealous of the Hollywood nature of their churches and would sneak off to services with them on the holidays after my mandatory Protestant services were obliged.
We had a hand-me-down crèche from my family in our narthex, the cathedral’s crèche was life sized and they had a tree that soared to the frescoed ceiling. They had a cross with a carved and polychromed figure of Christ hanging from it; we had a simple wooden cross back lit with bad lighting.
I began collecting religious art and statuary after I received a print of Mary from my Mother. It was my grandmother’s print and I cherish it as I never had a chance to meet her as she died before I was born. The other pieces began to accumulate after we moved into our current home, right next to a church. People assume that we are the parsonage for the church due to our location and we have had many people stop by asking for help and wondering about services. I set up a Marian Shrine in the corner of our home’s foyer. It faces the church and is adjacent to a mural depicting the tree of life.
The photo “Corpus Christi” is a collaborative piece between myself and tattoo artist Adam Shrewsbury. The idea was to play with the concept of the body as a temple came to me in a conversation with him and my partner as he was being tattooed by another artist in the shop. The bible prohibits tattooing in the book of Leviticus. The Old Testament law commanded the Israelites, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:28). But one has to wonder if God would approve of tattoos with a religious theme or image. What about the face of Christ? What about an image of Mary? The idea to cover the person with the images of the crosses came after much discussion and debate. For the record, they are stencils and not real tattoos. Sorry to ruin it for you, but people always ask.
Adam’s website has this to say about his philosophy and art:
AP Shrewsbury is a tattooer and a seeker. He has been tattooing professionally for 5 years and painting for several more. He enjoys tattooing in a traditional American style that is characterized by simple design, bold line work, a limited color palette and an appreciable amount of black. He is a seeker of the secrets of the universe. Working tirelessly to lift the veil from the great mystery that we all help to create. His paintings and tattoos are often unified with common themes that deal with non duality, death, transcendentalism, mysticism, esoteric wisdom and hermetics. Each creative endeavor is crafted and imbued with as much spirit as one is able to summon.
At best, tattooing is a medium for the indelible expression of deep personal truths. Although our perception and relationship to these truths may change over time, a well designed and applied mark will remain relatively consistent. We live in a world permeated by symbols, most accepting the culturally provided meaning associated with a given symbol. Tattooing is unique in that it offers each of us the opportunity to establish a personal symbolic vocabulary. The act of doing so is inherently self empowering.
You can read more and see examples of his work on his website at http://apshrewsbury.com/home.html
It was a pleasure and an honor to collaborate with him and our model Don in the creation of this piece.