After seeing W.C. Rice’s Miracle Cross Garden, a three acre religious shrine surrounding Rice’s home in Alabama, NYC artist James Concannon got inspired: “He had made this whole fire and brimstone, everybody’s going to hell, repent repent repent, large scale depiction of human turmoil,” he said. “I was hooked.”
Originally a house painter, Rice found God and dedicated his life to building crosses and painting signs of worship until his death in 2004. Concannon on the other hand, is a NYC punk, whose witty designs reading “Going To Richard Hell” and “Drink Iggy Pop” have been worn by the likes of Lady Gaga.
But Concannon, like Rice, has a fascination with religion, particularly religious iconography, crafting sculptures and paintings from discarded objects to challenge the role religion plays in shaping humanity. And tonight, at Shrine in the Lower East Side, Concannon will present his work alongside Rice’s in a short-running exhibition, Hell is Hot.
Though Concannon’s dogmatic obsession may differ from Rice’s, both artists appropriate religious iconography, particularly the cross, to challenge human emotion. Using Christian symbolism, Rice, a self-proclaimed Reverend, warns of fire and brimstone; Concannon uses it to examine the darker side of religious fanaticism. Hell is Hot combines their work to explore the power of imagery and religion in providing an escape from the realities of humanity.
“By deducing the vast historical and theological impact of the Christian religion into two perpendicular planks of wood, one may also begin to breakdown mankind into its complete duality—the positive and the negative, the ego and the id, the serpent and the seed,” Concannon said. “These polarizing culturally confounded entities thus represent life unto itself. Existing in the interim is the majority of the world’s populous, however on the fringe we find two artists who have ultimately been inspired by this magnetic opposition.
Hell is Hot opens tonight at Shrine in the LES, and will be on view until Sept. 4.