The Absent Are Still Holy

Drawing on studies of post-structuralism, semiotics, and religious paintings, The Absent Are Still Holy investigates canonized images of Christian divinity as unstable semiotic signs which construct a privileged social default. Appropriation of historic religious works generates a series of theoretical objects which examine the role of holy bodies in legitimizing systems of supremacy and oppression integral to American identity.

Each work examines levels of psychological access and exclusion from the notion of “God” through a synthesis of traditional printmaking and painting techniques with household craft materials. Use of many media within the language of abstraction encourages imaginative reconstructions of holiness and democratizes power to shape sacred bodies. Additionally, papercutting functions as a destabilizing force within the non-rectilinear picture-plane. These choices fragment earthly space, destabilize formal agents of holy depiction in reference works, and signal entry into a metaphysical space. Emphasis is thus placed on the intangible nature of God rather than defining God within the framework of a human body, pointing to the constructed nature of the painted God and rejecting notions of a divinely-sanctioned group. This abstraction also allows sacred bodies to be replaced with traits traditionally excluded from depictions of divinity without inherently excluding other human bodies, dissolving binary notions of the holy and the enemy.

Through materials and subversion of normative bodies, the series probes the Western cultural default for its partial origins in historical religious imagery, examining how divine bodies are used to legitimize default Western identities. Through this dissection of historical artworks, The Absent Are Still Holy considers the disruptive possibilities of reconstructing signifiers of “God” to dissolve constructed notions of normativity and dismantle oppressive systems.