Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Does Evangelical Art Set Off Your Gaydar?

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

1 comment:

John Wilks said...

I think this is one of the main problems in discussing issues of gender and sexuality. We've made a characture of masculinity roughly in the likeness of John Wayne and thus denied the possibility of a heterosexual male expressing profound emotions (other than rage, lust, and sports fanaticism.)

I think it is high time for Evangelical thinking to de-Americanize our concept of masculinity in favor of a vision where we're strong enough to cry and macho enough to embrace beauty without fearing the reaction of others.

Granted, the heart of a renaissance man doesn't beat in every male chast, but we need to make room for those of us in whom it does. I, for one, am man enough to be called a sissy for expressing more than mere grunts while dragging my knuckles in my journey through this life.