Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The End of the World

Since the Rapture has been scheduled for Saturday, I will take Paul A's suggestion and post a series of paintings I made back in 2005 to 2007 about people's apocalyptic expectations. I present these pictures together with text I wrote recently to accompany these pictures on my FaceBook page.


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.

The Rapture, oil on panel, 16” x 20”, 2005

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.

Fire, oil on panel, 16” x 20”, 2005

Whatever prophetic vision the fanatics see, this is what the rest of us see when they act upon their wishes.

Blood Atonement, oil on panel, 16” x 20”, 2006

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.

The Sheep and the Goats, oil on panel, 16” x 20”, 2006

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.

The Lord’s Work, oil on panel, 16” x 20”, 2007

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.

Rescue, oil on panel, 16” x 20”, 2007

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.


June Butler said...

These paintings are powerful and stirring, Doug. The old man with the flag in the top picture is haunting. The sun through the smoke in "The Lord's Work" is stunning. For some reason, "Rescue" calls to mind a crucifixion.

These are quick, first impressions only. I'd seen some of the paintings on Facebook, but grouped together the art is even more impressive.

Leonard said...

Yes, powerful and true (as is the picture directly next to us on the left entitled ¨AIDS DISAPPEARED¨ --what a life we see.

Thank you, stunning and thinkable stuff.

MadPriest said...

You knew Brad Evans back in 2005 then?
That's definitely him in the top painting.

Moderate Fundamentalist said...

That third picture is hilarious.

On a serious point about "revenge fantasies" though, isn't it better for men to live peacefully and virtuously, trusting in the justice of God in the next life, than for them to try to settle their scores amongst themselves in the here and now?

I know this is a very protestant sentiment, but still.

Counterlight said...

How about trying to live out that famous passage from the prophet Micah (6:6-8), and the Great Commandment of Our Lord in this life, and to live it out with all people regardless of type or condition or sectarian allegiance (or lack of it)?

As St. Francis famously said, we must always preach the Gospel, sometimes with words.

Instead of badgering people to Believe In Jesus or Die! How about loving them as Jesus commanded? God is not an extortionist.

Counterlight said...

We must have very different ideas of what's "hilarious." Glad you thought that was a real knee-slapper.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you for these powerful images. You have taken up the mantle of Goya in depicting the horrors some misguided souls see as blessings.

Counterlight said...

Goya! very high praise indeed.

I am grateful, but I am unworthy to so much as clean the great Spaniard's brushes.

MadPriest said...

You have taken up the mantle of Goya

clean the great Spaniard's brushes

Is this some sort of gay lingo that I am not party to?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Doug, it is "The Sheep and the Goats" that reminded me so strongly of "The Shootings of the 3rd of May" --- the strong yellow diagonal, the looming building in the background, the anonymity of the executioners... and that brutal suggestion of what is about to happen.

You have a gift worthy of much celebration.

Counterlight said...

Thank you Tobias.

I'm glad somebody likes that picture, a favorite of mine.

Kittredge Cherry said...

What powerful paintings! Thank you for the art, and also for the text that helps me understand it in the context of 9/11 and religion.

Rev. Richard Thornburgh said...

Powerful thought-provoking images - you have a true talent.

JCF said...

Ooops, I forgot to comment on how impressive these are, Doug (that was the food poisoning preventing that)

JCF said...

Urgh, I was reading your current post (Nov 2016), when the permalink (the deranged guy w/ the flag) caught my eye.

So f#cking prophetic!

God help us....