On January 18, after a tip from John Klotz, I posted and article about a new book out by art historian Martin Kemp called Christ to Coke: How Image Becomes Icon. Today, I came across this interesting review of the book by Jim Watkins in Transpositions, a collaborative blog by students associated with the Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at the University of St Andrews. He writes:
For someone interested in the relationship between theology and the arts, the most exciting part of Kemp’s book comes in the conclusion. He suggests that understanding these icons in secular terms simply will not do. Instead, he prefers to stretch what one may mean by ‘religious’ to ‘embrace devotion that accords a value to something that transcends all its apparent physical existence’ (340). All of these icons are ‘endowed with a special kind of presence,’ and Kemp writes this as ‘someone not generally prone to mystical and religious beliefs’ (342).
But what are Kemp’s icons? Those he has singled out are Christ, the cross, the heart, the lion, Mona Lisa, Che Guevara, Nick Ut’s Villager’s Fleeing along Route I, the American flag, the Coke bottle, DNA, and E=mc². If that’s the case then we have a lot of theology to do.
Recall what Kemp wrote:
. . . The fact that the image [on the Shroud of Turin] is far more apparent in a photographic negative than in the original has served to enhance its magical status. For the enthusiastic seeker of evidence, its elusiveness as a picture allows the viewer to see details that may not be there. It has occasioned its own recent pseudo-histories, often of such an extravagant and fanciful nature as to rival any medieval legend. Even Leonardo, as a proto-photographer, has been pressed into service as its forger.
If we are to look analytically at the image on the shroud as a picture (however it was made), it exhibits clear visual features that point to its painterly origins.
It goes on from here for another paragraph or so.