Friday, February 29, 2008

Jesus and the Junkie

I just spotted this image on Hasta Los Gatos Quieren Zapatos, and I'm amazed. The site where it was originally posted calls it a "surreal piece of religious propaganda". And I guess it is - but it's so old school in it's symbolism, and yet up-to-date at the same time. [Except the junkie looks like George Michael, but whatever! I {heart} George Michael.]

The symbolism is right out of the old religious art images: the skull representing mortality, and the contemplation of it. The wall behind them looks like it shows a map of the Americas. The paraphernalia that the junkie uses are all laid out so we can see them, the "sinner's tools" - cards, booze, a gun, coke, a candle for the heroin spoon, and of course the needle and tourniquet. We see Jesus' suffering for our sins, but also that he is there with us, even in the loneliest times. It reminds me of the Footprints poem. You know the one:
Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,

“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”

Mary Stevenson, 1936
This image feels heavy-handed, but yet, it grabs me. What about you? I think probably all those crucifixes, and entombment images back in the Middle Ages used to feel powerful - real - to the people back then too. THAT's what I think is amazing about religious art. I always get sucked in.


Charlotte said...

I had to go to the artist's website. Oh, my.

He must have a thing for Barry Gibb. Cuz that's who Jesus looks like, to me.

Stephen said...

As the artist of the painting about Jesus and the junkie I would like to clarify the blog owners thoughts.

The point of the painting is that the junkie does not know that God lives inside him. The junkie's arm and Jesus' arm are one and the same.

I have no care for traditional symbolism. The skull does not refer to morality, the paraphernalia is not about sinner's tools. The junkie in the painting is a real ex-junkie who is clean and sober because of his experience with God. Every bit of the things you see on the table etc are simply those things that he always had around him.

The torn wallpaper is a map of the world.

As far as the George Michael and Barry Gibb comments, these are both real people. I have no interest in music or movie stars.

My website is
The image you have was a photoshop altered and stolen image with the watermark removed.