Thursday, August 16, 2007

Veeka and the Big Guy

Well, at some point we need to instruct Veeka on how the universe is set up so I've taken to setting a painting - well, icon, really - of a Russian angel by her bed. But I figured I needed to personalize this a bit, so on one of her 10 flashcards is the name "JESUS."
Now, the other flashcards have pictures on them, ie photos of "shoes" and "Mommy" and "Veeka" and "ball," etc., that I was able to clip out of places like Parents magazine. But where to find a mug shot of You Know Who? Well, I thought, I get 5 zillion Christian magazines at home and at work. Surely, there must be a good Jesus photo in there *somewhere.*
I am here to tell you that there was not. I looked everywhere, first starting out in the venerables, ie Christianity Today, Charisma and Ministries Today. Nada. I went further afield, searching Sojourners (there was stuff of Desmond Tutu but not Christ), the Wittenburg Door (Jesus in a superman outfit was all I could find and I didn't think Veeka would comprehend that message), Human Life Review, Crisis (lots of Catholic saints but no saviour), Books and Culture, Cutting Edge....nothing.
Surely, I thought, there must be something wrong. I went really radical, searching through Sunstone (a Mormon publication), Christian Challenge and even Free Inquiry, a magazine for atheists. I paged through some old Christmas cards but I didn't want Veeka to mistake Jesus-the-baby for a playmate. I had the cover of "The Passion" soundtrack on hand but trying to explain to Veeka who this very sad, bloodied man is with His face half in the shadow - hmmmm; let's wait on that a few years.
There's a commentary in here somewhere and I'm fumbling for what this all means. Is there such a thing as something or Someone being so meaningful, we dare not carry any pictures at all? That's the route Muslims and Jews have taken. Or is the current attempts at portraying Him are so awful, magazines don't want to run them? Or...? I cast about for paintings by Ed Knippers, a local artist who's known in many, many places for his fabulous, albeit startling huge paintings of Jesus - all in the nude. I love his work but it's a tad violent for a 2-year-old. Other stuff, say the Salvador Dali print shown here, doesn't show His face. I was amazed at how much art I saw on the Internet was either super stylized (ie Jesus as a stick figure) or too Thomas Kincaid-style sentimentalized.
A number of years back, I was putting together an article for the Houston Chronicle religion section on decent 20th-century art of the Virgin Mary and I ran into similar problems. So one ends up borrowing from the movies or - in Mary's case - drawings of how she appeared to the Medjugorje visionaries. I bought a statue of the Medjugorje Mary when I was over there in 1990 as I thought it was one of the more decent representations I'd seen of her.
Which brings up another pet peeve: religious Christmas stamps. I hate them. The US Postal Service always picks the least likeable renditions of Mother and Child with the worse color schemes imaginable and slaps them all onto a stamp. I usually buy Hanukkah or Ramadan stamps - they're much prettier. There must be such a thing as dishonoring God through bad art; if so, the USPS wins that one hands down.
If anyone has a recent head shot of the Second Person of the Trinity, please pass it along.


Dave said...

J, doesn't the commandment 'bout graven images come to mind? :) Or, I could provide a photo of a human(s), whom God mysteriously uses to work His will....


LindaG said...

Julia, I read your blog because I also read your brother's excellent columns in the Portland Oregonian and he mentioned you. I agree with your comments about bad pictures. Two recommendations:

(1) I Googled the words "icon" and "Jesus" and clicked on images and got several; I like this one very much (but it looks like the URL is too long so I'm going to put some spaces in it -- just remove the spaces and paste): expressions/faces_jesus/ gallery/sinai.html

(2) If you have access to the wonderful book "The Faces of Jesus" (text by Frederick Buechner), that might give you and Veeka a few useful images as the years go by. I'm rather fond of "Christ over New York City," painted on a slatted steel door, pg. 225 in the book.

Thanks for your writing, your work, and your mothering . . .

Catherine said...

Julia, years ago I found a wonderful painting of Jesus' smiling face on a church bulletin. It showed him as a young, strong man, smiling. He looked like a working man. I liked that. I think I saved it, because I liked it so much. I'll look for it for you.

Also _ being passed around the Internet and in e-mail I have seen some pencil sketches of Jesus with children. They also seemed very representative of His nature to me. I'll see if I can find those, too.

Bless you both.