the occult: the southern gothic

“Once upon a time – but, in every place and in every time art was religious. 8000 years ago, Europe, Asia, and Africa were already full of sculpted gods, goddesses, hand totemic animals. According to various accounts there were Bull-gods, butterfly gods, bird goddesses, frog goddesses, and deities that were nothing more than lumps of uncarved stove. Neolithic people left offerings, built altars, and chipped at rocks and bones to make images of gods… It seems art has been basically religious or ritual in nature, even in times and places where there was no word for what we call religion or art”

Etkins, 5

My mom briefly studied paganism. It wasn’t that weird, our house had an alter and she would read tarot cards. It wasn’t that weird. But once, my sister got in a disagreement with an administrator at our school and my mom did a “hex” on him. I didn’t think anything of it, and it wasn’t that weird… that guy had a heart attack two weeks later?

It was a little weird.

Southern Gothic Aesthetic was steeped in me. A visual language of devote Christianity in the context of horror (all white dresses with brown tattered hems, diner signs with a “Jesus died for you” written in mismatched plastic letter cards), it couldn’t just pass me by unnoticed (Castillo). The Baptist churches of the South held the only events for the entire town I grew up in. We didn’t have trick-or-treat, we had “The Noah’s Fall Festival” – I have encountered so many of those orange pocket sized bibles. An effort at a religious indoctrination, that honestly kind of worked.

Endowing an importance is a hard task. For anyone sure, but to artwork (a tall order). I only have the tools I was taught. So, when I’m shouting and beating at the chest to say, “this matters”, look to the diner sign, and the fall festival. It’s not pretty or clean but it’s mine. The accumulation of parts that make up my whole.

This Southern Baptist meets disenfranchised poverty is an illustration of a language I speak, and a people group I speak to. It is of the communities I participate in, and in that way, I live there still with them.

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