On Death and Christianity is my queer love letter to the paintings and statues of Medieval Europe and the Italian Renaissance. I found myself in art history textbooks: Something in the way Giotto painted the lips of Jesus so close to Judas's made their final farewell more tantalizing than an execution should be. Michelangelo painted the newly throned Christ almost romantically next to his mother on the walls of the Sistine Chapel as he throws souls this way and that en masse—what lingered was the flayed and deflated skin of the homosexual artist held by a seraph a few clouds below. And Mantegna painted a package on the dead son of God that I won't soon forget in his Lamentation of Christ.
I use Mantegna's 1480 painting as a starting point for the damning Christian belief of the afterlife. To the left of center the straight man accepts the most holy ritual of baptism, is lamented after death, and takes his rightful throne in Heaven. To the right the gay man is betrayed, caressed in death, and cast off to rot in Hell.
I wonder about the fear of death for these gay artists who created by and for the Church. Many were known to be homosexual and saved from murder only by the will of rich and politically powerful families such as the Medicis, or even at times by the reigning pope who kept them as art-making puppets. In their quiet hours did they plead with God and weep alone or did they look to death as a release—the final fuck you to their oppressors?
On Death and Christianity
4x5 black and white negatives
Archival Pigment Prints