April 09, 2016
New Art by Catherine King: God's Chosen Planet
Collage. 50" x 50". Copyright 2016 Catherine King. Do not reproduce in any form.
by Jerome du Bois
How do you capture, how can you express, how can you lay out on one surface the inexhaustible exuberance of God's creative powers? It's impossible by definition, but here I present one magnificent attempt in this new collage by Catherine King.
God's Chosen Planet positions the Earth as the center of the universe, and can be interpreted as a visual summary of the seven days of Genesis. Not everything in Creation is depicted in this work; it just looks like it. In a 50” by 50” square, the viewer encounters the sheer visual density of tens of thousands of familiar images, each one clear and whole and recognizable, each one patiently and expertly cut out of glossy magazines, each in its own space.
Earth is busy – teeming with life down to the eighth of an inch-- but it is not chaotic. The unbelievable variety of Creation is invigorating, but not exhausting. The viewer is not intimidated or overwhelmed, but welcomed, indeed irresistibly drawn in, then drawn across, then drawn back, then drawn in again. Each image is whole, and each image has a small margin of white background around it. No overlapping. Of course, it would have been easier to simply fill in all the available space with overlapping images to try to create a sense of abundance. But that misses the point. This technique, this aesthetic decision, is deliberate and actually crucial, because it preserves and respects the dignity of the living things God has created on this planet, the only planet blessed with life. It also has a curiously reassuring effect, because it is organized, like a jigsaw puzzle.
In contrast, the jewels which make up the universe are allowed to overlap. The simple distinction creates a spatial dynamic which sets the Earth in front of the rest of the universe, which recedes around the chosen planet. I call the Universe part a setting, not a frame, because the Earth is the center of God's creation, more precious than all that surrounds it. The cut gems stand for stars and galaxies and planets. They're beautiful, but they are not alive. The heavens declare the glory of God; but the Earth does, too, and better, I believe, because God is dynamic, not static, the Master of Time outside of time, and He created humankind –the crown of Creation-- in His image; and He is drawing all creation forward toward Him and eternity.
Ms. King was a paste-up artist back in the day, and has always respected the work done by commercial photographers and printers, most of whom remain nameless in the background. When digital photography advanced the qualities of color and resolution in magazines, she began to use these throw-away images for collage. Nothing is downloaded from the internet. (See more at artforourtimes.us.) So for her, these collages are also a tribute to those anonymous technicians who made such vivid, high-quality images possible. Her collaborators, she calls them.
The bear at the center can be seen as the ambiguity of Nature after the Fall. He does not look friendly. Of course he anchors the circle and centers the wandering gaze, but he is not cozy or approachable. Nature is not all bunnies and butterflies, but here the red of tooth and claw are tucked away, and the work shows Nature at a moment of peace. Sometimes I think of it as a fountain seen from above, continually bringing to light what God has delighted to bless us with. (And by the way, only those whose DNA are left untampered with. No chimeras, no monsters.)
Notice the delightful, but not comical, confounding of scale, where a green bean is longer than a cougar's tail, and a white rabbit matches size with a polar bear –but upside down. Again, each of God's creations has its own space, its own inviolate existence, no matter its size. And that confounding of orientation, by the way, with every notch of the gyroscope marked, sets off a. celebration of the use of the eyes, the sheer pleasure of continually solving visual problems, inventing games (didn't I see that fox a minute ago?), reveling in the miracle of sight. God saw – and it was good.
One may ask, if this is God's chosen planet, where are the people? My answer: you're looking at this artwork, aren't you? You're right there in front of it. In a crucial sense, you complete it. You have been given dominion over it all.
In the coming Great Deception, the deceivers are going to try to convince you that humankind was seeded here by aliens. Do not by any means let them fool you. THIS is God's Chosen Planet.