Unless your taste in art is restricted to Dogs Playing Poker, you can expect that having an appreciation for the fine arts can lead to doubts about your sexual orientation. I was once called an "art fag" for recognizing that a Vanity Fair cover was a subtle reference to a Manet painting. And I may rave about Greuze's airly play with light in the blogosphere, but I know better than to do that at the monthly United Methodist Men meetings. Still, there is an emerging and very kitschy evangelical art movement, since there clearly isn't enough expensive Christian-themed junk filling up LifeWay stores. Jeff Sharlett took a look at the movement:
Is evangelical art really that gay? If only. DiCianni's, Blackshear's, and God's personal preferences aside, this massively popular reveals an unexplored facet of the Christian men's movement: The manly desire for beauty. Or, to be more precise, the manly desire to look pretty. What's wrong with that? Doesn't that suggest a slightly-expanded idea of gender? Indeed, it does -- the masculine gender ex[anded to encompass and appropriate one of the few virtues fundamentalist men had previously reserved for women.
We might write off these sterile representations of women to prudishness, but that still leaves us with the ripped golden muscles and leatherman fetish of DiCianni's man-art. My tentative theory: As religious art traditionally uses eroticism to channel worldly desires toward spiritual concerns, contemporary fundamentalist art uses eroticism to channel sex -- the visual currency of power in an advertising culture -- away from women and toward men. Either that, or it's a vast gay conspiracy.
Sharlett has a very quiet standard for what counts as eroticism, but I get his point: some Christian art looks like it belongs on romance novel covers. As for me, I prefer the classics of Christian art, such as Christ In the Wilderness by Kramskoy:
Hat tip: In the Agora