As an artist, I am often inspired and drawn to art that, as a Christian, I find morally repulsive. This internal conflict begs the question: How do we as Christians respond to art that conflicts with our values? Looking at art is looking at the world through the eyes of that particular artist—and often artists see and portray more than they realize.
There is no doubt that sculptor Kris Kuksi has been influenced by the Church. The nature of that influence is a mystery, but themes of religion play strongly in Kuksi’s work. What Kuksi portrays best, is the overlap of religion and politics and the resulting evils of that unholy partnership.
“And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” — Mark 8:15
How often in our zeal, leavened by the leaven of Herod (political-mindedness), have we done violence to peoples and our Savior who’s name we claim? How often is the Church’s zeal drawn from the leaven of the Pharisees, seeking the honor and glory of her rituals and vestments rather than that of her Groom? When I look at many of Kuksi’s assemblages, I am reminded and even convicted of partaking of those leavens.
While politics and religion are strong and recurring themes in Kuksi’s work, its scope is much broader—encompassing the fallen nature of Man. Kuksi portrays every vice with more honesty than I believe any other artist I’ve seen. And he does it so well! His assemblages are architecturally astounding works that possess a fractal nature. Kuksi combines elements of religion—ranging from Greco-Roman mythology to Christianity to Hinduism— with the machinations of war, sexual exploitation, and horror film to create tableaus that Guillermo del Toro calls “post-industrial Rococo.”
These amalgamations, and his use of nudes in particular, show the de-humanizing nature of how our culture has come to view sex. Kuksi’s placement of nudes (often dismembered or merged with machine) amongst the filth and horrors of war aptly depict the way in which our ideas of sensuality ultimately are proven to be grotesque. More than that, these sculptures beautifully and adroitly illustrate the way in which Man’s pride and arrogance eventually twist everything he touches.
As an artist, I cannot look away from these sculptures. They are intricate, beautiful, masterful works. I am mystified as to what Kuksi’s process is. He shows himself to be a master craftsman and visionary. Looking at his work as a Christian, my heart aches for the World. These pieces recall Romans 1—the hopelessness of Man’s state of being—and I am reminded of our need for a Savior. Without Jesus, what more can we hope for?
For more, please go to Kuksi.com.