Angelic Angelina?


Angelina Jolie has been assumed into heaven along with her three cherubs, Maddox, Zahara & Shiloh, in this iconoclastic take on celebrity worship.

Artist Kate Kretz writes:

This painting addresses the celebrity worship cycle. The title, “Blessed Art Thou”, is taken from a line in the Catholic prayer “Hail Mary”: “…blessed art thou among women’. Our culture is deifying celebrities, but in the bible, it is the meek who are blessed, so the title presents a question for the viewer to ponder as to who is “blessed”.

I chose a setting where the cycle begins, creating an oppressive psychological space where the consumer is driven to reach for the tabloid, hungry for “information” about the celebrity’s private life. I am interested in the psychological ramifications of celebrity worship, particularly as they relate to class and consumerism.

Angelina Jolie was chosen as the subject because of her unavoidable presence in the media, the world-wide anticipation of her child, her “unattainable” beauty and the good that she is doing in the world through her example, which adds another layer to the already complicated questions surrounding her status.

The “Virgin” and Zahara figures are loosely based on a Van Dyck Virgin painting, and the Maddox figure’s pose is borrowed from a Raphael painting. This painting utilizes imagery that I have used in previous work, but where I formerly used this vocabulary to look inward, here I am responding to the outside world.

I like that question, just what are the psychological and spiritual ramifications of celebrity worship? And the obvious extension of this is, just how reconcilable is celebrity worship with Christian discipleship?

4 thoughts on “Angelic Angelina?

  1. Well Matt you probably need to probe deeper here and ask: what about the already existing forms of celebrity/hero-adulation within some Christian contexts?
    In the US evangelical subculture there has been a tendency to “brand and tag” celebrity converts — the “big-man-on-campus” basketball/football player; pointing to celebrity believers like Pat Boone, B. J. Thomas, Charlton Heston, assorted US presidents, etc. In some ways there is an uneasy tension among evangelicals over their pious worries of “flirting with the world”. So there is some excitement when a celebrity announces she/he has faith, and corresponding disappointment when that celebrity stumbles on a moral failing (usually drinking, gambling, sex). The flip side is “and how dirty were you before you converted” — so a “can you top that” mentality can also colour conversion stories “I was a Hell’s Angel Bikie”, “I was a satanist”, etc.
    Much of this stands in contrast to the servanthood stance of Jesus (even when he attained some celebrity status in his triumphal ride into Jerusalem). Perhaps his resistance to the temptations in the wilderness shows how resolute he was in rejecting the ephemeral pop star status accorded him by the Jerusalem mob.
    But I think in general the celebrity cults of Diana Princess of Wales, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Dean, and the living celebrities (like Angelina) say a lot about the shallowness of pop cultural whims; but they also point to the desperate need for some to be able to tangibly touch a celebrity. It is as if it easier to “believe” in a celebrity in the flesh than in someone from another time and culture. It probably says something also about the yearning of people to be noticed and today’s technical gadgets allows many affluent people the luxury of indulging in narcissistic activities on cell phones and You Tube sites.
    Maybe a character study of famous Bible figures will tell us something important: they are all flawed persons. I don’t think one would really want the reputation of a Moses, Gideon, Samson, King David; being a prophet was no “fun” especially if you think about what was done to Jeremiah! Paul of Tarsus met with both great and small people but he certainly did not waltz around on a red carpet for a Jewish-Roman photo-shoot! Maybe we need to recover the raw humanity and “failures” of these characters as a reality-check against creating false images and placing false hopes in ego-centric starlets of our day?


  2. Most certainly. Through Hollywood we’ve come to idolize our Bible characters too! I am right with you on recovering their raw humanity. In studying the heroes of our sacred narratives, in their character flaws and weaknesses, not only have they become more real for me, their very faults have become instructive.


  3. I see a root of this, for Christians, in the professional clergy. They are set apart in an almost worshipful stance for their perceived “special access” to all things spiritual. And this separation robs the “saints” of their essential value as children of God and joint heirs with Christ. They can too easily abdicate their responsibilities to make disciples and take their rightful place in the Body of Christ, according to the gifting of the Holy Spirit.
    While I’m at it, the whole “Saints” thing also robs the “saints” of their identity, even, and adds another level of separation between the children and their elder brother, Christ, as well as their heavenly Father.
    Embracing the flaws in others leads to being able to acknowledge them in ourselves, which should lead to confessing them to each other and humbly looking to the Holy Spirit for reconciliation and return to active service.


  4. Perhaps the purpose of Sacred Art is to Reveal and allow everyone to participate in the inherent Beauty of the Indivisible Oneness, or the Radiance of Being which is also prior to all seeming “imperfections”?


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