January 09, 2007

Blessed Art Thou

Kate Kretz’ painting of Angelina Jolie shown this past weekend at Art Miami, has garnered a great deal of attention. Suddenly 15,000 people a day are visiting Kretz’ website and blog. One art critic, Blake Gopnic of the Washington Post pans the painting as an inconsequential play on a superstar’s notoriety. However, I think Gopnic missed the point(s). Kretz herself says, and I am paraphrasing, that she chose the subject - an angelic Jolie holding her newborn, Shiloh, her other two children, Maddox, and Sahara at her feet ascending on clouds above a Walmart checkout line – because of our cultural indulgence in celebrity worship, because of Jolie’s unachievable beauty, and because of Jolie’s good-works, her seeming total immersion in saving the children of the world. The painting is thus, a visual metaphor on several levels, and it refers with obvious (ir)reverence - Both I think - to Catholic religious paintings of the Renaissance, and it has a definite kinship in style with the paintings of Paul Cadmus. As such, it is a Postmodern tour de force. I went to Kretz’ Website myself, and discovered that she also makes objects, clothing, purses, and embroiders with human hair, and that all of these objects perform second wave feminist commentary on the status of women in our culture, as well as address Kretz’ own personal life.

Last week I saw a Larry King interview with Jolie about her humanitarian work. It amazed me that one of these beautiful, adored and pampered, made rich as Croesus, objects of our affection has been able to transform herself into an actual humanitarian angel. Perhaps there is some of that wonder in Kretz’ painting as well.

I’m so close to Miami, and I’m sorry I missed Art Miami, though the trip and all the walking would have made me utterly miserable. Never the less, It would have been worth it if for no other reason than to visit Kretz’ representation of Jolie as angelic mother figure.

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