This is a series of paintings that I did between 2005 and 2007 that came out of my anger. Apocalypse is supposed to be religious teachings about destiny, what waits for all of us at the end of our journey through time. Frequently, apocalypse becomes an excuse for revenge fantasies writ large upon the cosmos. In our age of violent fanaticism and tribal passions, apocalypse usually means, “you bastards are going to get what’s coming to you!”
This a series of paintings about evil, the worst kind, done in the name of righteousness. When people believe that they are absolutely and exclusively right, they become arrogant and value ignorance. They become capable of amazing cruelty and brutality.
When they try to become angels, men become beasts.
Men never do evil so willingly and so happily as when they do it for the sake of conscience.
I lived in the East Village when the September 11th attacks happened. In the days that followed, the neighborhood filled with smoke and dust. I remember that the crazy people with agendas came out of the woodwork that week. There was an old man wearing a construction helmet, waving a huge American flag, marching up and down the middle of Avenue A yelling “Wake up!” followed by some spiel that I could not understand. There was a woman standing in the middle of Astor Place yelling insults and abuse at everyone who passed by. I forget where I saw him, but there was another old man clutching a Bible, listening to something on a pocket recorder, and laughing loudly and uncontrollably. I commemorate those folks, and every crank that yearns for apocalyptic revenge, in this painting.
Whatever prophetic vision the fanatics see, this is what the rest of us see when they act upon their wishes.
This comes out of remarks by a Muslim cleric about suicide bombers making themselves fragrant and beautiful offerings to God. This painting is about not only that, but about the whole idea of God requiring payment in blood.
Fanatics frequently take it upon themselves to separate out the Elect from the Doomed. What it really boils down to is who’s a Member and who is not. The Members always suffer unjust humiliation at the hands of their enemies. They bear it all knowing that it is their destiny to rule the world and to inflict revenge upon all who are not them.
This is based on a famous painting by Millet. In the end, fanatics are all the same, and the result of their work is there for all of us to see.
Some fanatics willingly die to kill indiscriminately as many people as possible. There are other people who willingly face death to indiscriminately save as many people as possible, frustrating and rebuking the designs of murderous fanatics determined to so brutally simplify and purify the world.