Michelangelo Jesus, 2002 Oil on linen 20 1/4 × 20 inches
Michelangelo Jesus, 2002
Oil on linen 20 1/4 × 20 inches

Michelangelo Jesus is a work also from the Hamlet period, when I was working in a tiny space in our tiny apartment in Soho, living with Andrew and also our German Shepherd Julian and poodle puppy Rosa. I was hoping to transcend our environment at that time by painting my way through it for salvation. My father’s Jewish and my mother’s Southern Baptist so I grew up a religious mutt—I don’t think I’m religious (although I have an affinity to all and respect all), but do consider myself spiritual, with my ultimate spirituality coming through in my experience with art. I love Michelangelo for his embracement for both the sacred and the profane, and of course he was a powerful homosexual artist in his time that changed culture. As an artist he is unsurpassed, his sculptures and painting truly bring about an experience of the sublime, and I feel I have so much to learn from him. If you could take the cultural relevance of a Warhol (or even of Michelangelo of his day) and mix it with the formal amazing attributes of Michelangelo (and his transcendent feeling) you would really have something amazing. This was a painting from a photo of one of Michelangelo’s first known sculptures—a wooden crucifix that is in Florence. I love the mood and melancholy of Christ’s face in this, and tried to capture it by painting the image. I also love El Greco and Byzantine Icon painting, and one of the reasons those pictures seem so alive is that those painters really believed they were alive while painting them, and that they (and the believers who followed them by praying to the icon) were actually communicating, channeling the characters that were portrayed. Although I don’t necessarily consider myself religious, I was getting the most I could out of painting this picture, playing relevant music (my relationship to Catholicism was originally Jesus Christ Superstar, and I’m sure I was playing this while painting), and hoping through the act of painting, which really is a sort of meditative prayer, that I would gain salvation. We kept this picture close to us wherever we have lived—like many Catholic people who have a photo of the same sculpture in their environments, it projects positive energy for us, and contains so much of what I believe to be the power of art.