Holy Fuck

 

Inspired by writings on the devil, themes in cultural artforms, and social taboos “Holy Fuck” depicts a scene on the edge of civilization: a witch’s Sabbat. Women gather behind a farm in a woodlot on the edge of a forest where trees are harvested. When trees are cut down, weeds grow to quickly fill in the opened space, taking advantage of the sunlight. These weeds are often filled with chemicals that are variously medicinal, poisonous, or hallucinogenic. Borage, chickweed, English daisy, burdock, datura, henbane, hellebore, mandrake, and deadly nightshade can all be found in the grayscale flora. The fragmented text that sits behind the women reads: Where Every Heresy Sprouts & Is Green. It is a reference to these types of weeds as well as the waste spaces that, being neglected for a time, provide a place for experimental, antisocial, or fringe behavior. It is also a religious proclamation against the unregulated explorations of those who slip outside of the controls and conventions of culture.

I go where weeds take me. Weeds as “hexing herbs” not only conjures up witchcraft and the witch trials but also to the professionalization of medicine: replacing midwives with doctors. Both of these historical turns away from something called a “witch” rejected the cultural context that might embrace direct access to either shamanic realms of the mind or health and healing. This negation broke tradition and shattered a socially-maintained database: the knowledge of the use of herbs for healing and ceremony. Looking back, trying to reconstruct the recipes and context is to become embroiled in nostalgia, polemics, coded language, ethnographies, cultural comparisons, and wishful thinking. A critique on any of these or other problems with ‘looking back’ might be an end in itself but not for me. I embrace the nostalgia and wishful thinking and everything in between! I move ahead filled with contradiction, misinformation, and magic!

The symbolism of “Holy Fuck” pulls from shadow puppet diagrams, Universal Indian Sign Language, medieval depictions of the mouth of hell, and the clichés of witchcraft imagery. The scene depicts an ambiguous sexuality: part erotic orgy, part rape/sacrifice. The transformation theme common in most shamanic art is shown here in the skinless faces that lack identity, the crouching woman becoming the bear head she is wearing, and the skull-headed man caught in a smoky vortex. 12 disembodied eyes float above the man and the scene is surrounded by 12 floating, black-glowing trees. Six flames ignite from the base of the foreground woodpile. Six sets of shadow puppet hands between the witches. Six witches conduct the ceremony. The backwards title text obscures the curse.

 

E.A.B. 3/23/10