Note from the Editor: About ten years ago I was struck by the force of this painting. Its impact felt like a body blow. Recently, as I followed the news coming from Syria, often accompanied by heartbreaking photos, the painting came back to mind. I contacted the artist to ask permission for use.
There is a robust history of artistic license when it comes to portrayals of Christ. On the one hand, Jesus Christ was a Middle Eastern man whose existence is verified by historians. On the other hand, Christians affirm that Jesus was also fully divine, the Son of God. Because of the truth that God took on human flesh to enter into our existence, sometimes artists dwell in that larger thought, portraying Jesus as an African man, or a Japanese fisherman, or as a blond-haired, blue-eyed European. Other times, artists have attempted to portray the physical specificity of the Messiah who was born in Bethlehem to poor Jewish parents 2,000 years ago.
This work marries the visual structure of classic nativity paintings with heartbreaking detail derived from current events. It shows us Middle Eastern faces – but in mourning, ravaged by violence, not lit with a celestial bliss. And after all, when it comes to nativity art, who dwells on the part of the Christmas story where Herod has infants and toddlers killed in his pursuit of his pint-sized rival? Even the Christmas story – especially the Christmas story – can’t escape the fallen world in which it takes place, the very reason it takes place. Jesus was born, and women wept for their young sons killed by Herod’s soldiers.
Meditate, then, on this work by Sandy Blass: “Why Deny the Obvious Child?” See more of her work at www.blassart.com.