The usual thoughts accompanying any type of religious experience in art provokes memories of “Art History 32,” with altar pieces and reliquaries at every turn. “The Kiln God Show” at the Dimock Gallery, in Lisner Auditorium, is a breath of fresh air in the somewhat stuffy area of religion and the arts, offering up unusual interpretations of well-known religious ideas and figures in sculpture form.
“Its about someone not understanding religion at all,” said sculptor Carl Schoenberger, adding that he is trying to equally mock all religions. From “The Dreidel of Las Vegas,” to statues of John McCain and Mathew Broderick and Luke Skywalker as evangelists, the artist attempts to have fun with usually serious portrayals of religious subjects.
Walking through the U-shaped space, a number of people appear to be traveling back to their third-grade classrooms, where they collectively learned the American Sign Language alphabet. “The Quiet Mudras” consists of a number of individual hands that are forming various letters of the ASL alphabet. Their purpose: to relay a sort of “spiritual sign language.” The claim that whenever they are used, silence follows, falls on deaf ears as an older woman nods her head in time to the alphabet flowing from her fingers, glancing every now and then up at the glazed hands. To the left a gigantic wheel, “The Wheel of ‘Car’ma,” looms at eye level, a forgotten wheel of fortune in a mixed up world. Or, as the explanation states, a “wheel that was discovered near Santa Rosa during a demolition of a small shopping center. Apparently the strip mall was built on the site of an old drive-in movie theater owned and run by the Automologists, a small cult who found the path to God through driving well.”
Schoenberger stresses that he tries to poke fun at religion and ensure that “everyone comes in and gets a good laugh.”
Whether you believe the titles and their accompanying descriptions, “The Kiln God Show” has something for every person in the family, whether it be a misunderstood brother (have him investigate “The Ghetto of the Gods”) or a radical aunt (“Sara’s Torah” would have even Gloria Steinman singing the Lord’s praises). With many of the pieces allowing hands-on interaction, it’s not just another exhibit containing a past culture’s Ghent Altarpiece or your usual dashboard Buddha. Instead, you get a chance to play a God, or at least have your face captured forever in the body of a fat and happy Buddha, then hung as part of a growing installment at the entrance of the exhibit.
Before you leave, make sure to pay a visit to George, a striking bust that might just look a little familiar, and be sure to walk around for a bit on “The Floor of Uncertain Footsteps.” The blurb claims that Pete Johnson accidentally did the family wrong, but as the viewer, you have no commitment toward the family, so lay your feet on those cobbles without guilt, and don’t worry about an angry, sleep-deprived security guard tackling you for manhandling the art. Before long, you’ll want to grab a halo and sing the praises of “The Kiln God Show” right alongside the fired white angels that dangle above your head.
-Mosheh Oinounou contributed to this report.
The Dimock Gallery is open to the public Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. in GW’s Lisner Auditorium.