If you need inspiration to clean your house, simply plan a big party and you will inevitably clean it. If you need inspiration to start a new art work, simply agree to participate in an upcoming show and you will inevitably make it.
And so it was for the image to the left, a hand-colored screen print I made for the “Heroes Surround Us” show at the JM Kohler Art Center called “Norbert Kox: Against the Darkness”. The prospectus for the exhibit requested a 14 x 14″ work of art on paper that honors a Wisconsin hero.
I Chose Norbert Kox because he is a relentless art maker, and devout Christian believer, and he manages to combine the two in a profound and prolific manner. His life and work are well documented, the biography from his website is a good starting point.
Mr. Kox is a university trained artist that is frequently tagged as Visionary, Outsider, and my favorite – Apocalyptic Surrealist. He is my hero because he fearlessly makes art about what really matters to him. Everything is at stake in every painting: the planet, the fate of the human race, every universe, and every dimension of existence.
While researching the Apocalypse for my MFA exhibition, I inadvertently bought the book, “The Colorful Apocalypse” by Greg Bottoms. What I thought was going to be another smug and condescending diatribe making Evangelical Christians out to be mindless robots, turned out to be a very personal look at three Outsider artists, Howard Finster, William Thomas Thompson, and Norbert Kox. Bottoms spent quality time interviewing Kox and meeting his friends, and wrote a compelling memoir.
Norbert Kox has a very strong internet presence, and before long I had read a great deal of his writing and seen most of his paintings and sculptures, albeit at 72 dpi. I hope to see his paintings in person some day. His unwavering commitment to communicating his message through art is very powerful.
I took inspiration for the print from the comic book style tradition of Evangelical Christian tracts, as well as the allegorical fervor of William Blake. I wanted to depict Norbert as a central figure literally fighting his enemies: Fear, Greed, Lies, and False Christs.
The coiling snakes came from a tiny 19th century image of a snake charmer. The flames and smoke of hellfire, as well as the hand written Bible verses come from the didactic tradition of religious art. Norbert stands defiant amid the flames holding the Bible and his paint brushes while he chokes the serpent named “False Christs”.
Even though I have never met Norbert Kox in person (we have been in contact by email) I will always imagine him as a quiet, confident warrior in the service of a King who will ultimately prevail.