While I think the criteria of what makes for “bad art” is debatable—I’ve seen some horrendous art praised because of who made it, and not because it didn’t look like shit—there’s some art that is decidedly bad. A lot of it ends up celebrated by bad art aficionados at the Museum of Bad Art. I think it’s because bad art has as much to offer in terms of depth of emotion and insight as “good art” does—maybe more.
Today I want to share a collection of bad Christian art with you. What I enjoy about reflecting on this art probably has a lot to do with my reluctant Christian upbringing. I was subject to attempted programming by relatives and strangers about God’s glory (which was in evidence all around me, I thought—in the trees, the flowers, my cat) and man’s ability to be just like God, if we prayed hard enough, gave enough money, and on the outside pretended to be people we weren’t on the inside. That last part was what just didn’t ring true for me. I knew a lot of these holy people were assholes, and a lot of assholes were holy people, so I guess I was a gifted child that way.
So when I gaze upon the imperfect face of Madonna and Child in some of these paintings, I’m struck by just how ridiculous it is that humanity could ever make up a story that put any of us anywhere even close to on the level of an entity that made a butterfly floating through a field of wildflowers. And then of course as I got older, I learned about all the rape, torture, burning, colonizing, and general pure evil committed by clergy around the world and was like, oh yeah, now this makes sense. If you need any evidence of how well the divine grace of God flows through his supplicants’ fingers into allegorical art, you’ll find it in this gallery of bad Christian art.