When a work of art becomes so available to the public that it cannot be avoided, the critic in everyone comes out.
This is the case with North Carolina artist Kate Kretz, who has become famous overnight – or at least her latest painting has.
Kretz recently finished a painting portraying Angelina Jolie as the Virgin Mary hovering above a Wal-Mart checkout line. The artist said she wanted to portray the concept of the “celebrity worship cycle” and make people think. She chose Jolie as the subject because of her strong presence in the media and for all of her humanitarian work.
Jolie did not pose for the painting entitled “Blessed Art Thou.” Kretz’s point about the “celebrity worship cycle” is a good one because we’ve all drooled over one celebrity or another at some point in our lives. But while the painting is nicely done and the likenesses of Jolie and her three children are striking, one thing is troublesome.
There was no need to portray Jolie and her children – Maddox, Zahara and Shiloh – as the Holy Family.
Furthermore, placing Jolie in the role of the Virgin Mary is laughable. You do not have to be a religious person to be offended by this painting. I was.
And those who take their faith seriously may not be so amused by the artist’s approach to the subject. Religion has always been a sensitive subject in society, and although artists certainly have the right to express themselves, Kretz’s “Blessed Art Thou” may not be very popular among those with strong religious beliefs.
Sure, I could have just turned away and not looked at it, but the image will always be in my head and the Jolie-Pitt family will hang in a gallery for people
to see until someone pays its $50,000 price tag and takes it home to hang on their wall.
While the artist’s goal was not to equate Jolie with the Virgin Mary and suggest that the two are even close to the same, by painting the famous family in such a way, Kretz is expressing just that.
The concept that celebrities are overexposed and receive special treatment is something I couldn’t agree with more, but there are better ways Kretz could have implemented in developing her painting. By simply painting Jolie’s face on a billboard or a national flag, the artist could have made her point without bringing religion into the topic at all.
Religious aspects aside, the painting is yet another example of the emphasis society places on fame and Hollywood. There are plenty of respectable people whom Kretz could have chosen as her topic. Yet instead of Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Teresa, there is just another picture of some actress and her kids. By choosing Jolie as her subject for the “celebrity
worship cycle,” Kretz made herself look like a hypocrite by feeding our celebrity-obsessed appetites.
Kretz’s point is not lost on me, but her comparison of the Jolie-Pitt family and the Holy Family is. Angelina Jolie may be a great humanitarian, but she is certainly not worthy of worship.
Shannon McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.