Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fresh face

I'm having a Lived Religion moment over a story in yesterday's Times. A woman in her eighties, concerned that her favorite representation of Jesus, a 19th century fresco in her local church, was being destroyed by water damage, restored it. The result doesn't look much like the original, it's true. But the original surely didn't look much like Jesus. The Times reports that the blogosphere has been having a field-day with the supposedly simian character of Cecilia Giménez' work - and I'm sure the Times article will inspire more. I'd like to know how Giménez and her community feel about her work. Apparently she did it with priestly approval and in broad daylight; the "disfiguring" was discovered only when the heirs of the painter of the fresco came by to have it restored. Who exactly has a problem here, and is it a religious problem?

Actually, I think I might use this in class. In their celebration of the religious resourcefulness of ordinary people, my "Lived Religion in New York" students moved too quickly to disdain specialist knowledges in religion, the ordinary person being assumed to be competent both to define and to find ways to meet her own needs. Since then I've been thinking about presenting religious specialists as sustained by ordinary people who need their special gifts and skills (who can then, and only then, shape these needs). Giménez may be unapologetic about her faithful attempt to render the face of her Lord, but also prefer the work of a trained artist... (Word is she's bedridden with anxiety over the ruckus she's caused.)

On the other hand, wouldn't it be cool if someone experienced a miracle cure in front of the new "Ecce Homo"?!

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