General 1-26-2006

Devil or Angel: In Our Own Image?

Dean Seal reviews Outsiders and Others Gallery's annual religion show--a heady mix of diverse manifestations of the otherworldly.

Devil or Angel

For the third year running, Outsiders and Others is doing the religion theme. And this gallery is dedicated to people with no training in their art form. It’s appropriate, if you feel like spirituality is something best discovered in one’s own experience and not necessarily out of a religious or theological recipe book.

Devil or Angel is a title from an old 50’s do-wop tune. It was about an obsessive love interest; the singer could not figure out if the girl of his dreams was a positive force of love, or a temptress bent on his downfall. A very binary theology indeed, but one which many still subscribe to. And what these exhibits have done in the past is demonstrate how wide the range is between one person’s salvation and another’s hell and damnation. Pieces range from sublime images of spiritual purity to the ridiculous, campy black-velvet Jesus school of humorous mockery.

Curator Yuri Arajis and cofounder Beth Parkhill describe religious art as “seen in practically every art form… it is one of the primary genres of outsider art. Obsessive or objective, political or whimsical, this exhibit explores the artists’ relationships with devils and angels from a twenty-first century perspective.” Great religious art, like Greek icons, forms a core aspect of practice for the faithful. The art is used as a touchstone to put one in a religious mode of thought.

Modern expression can go anywhere, to either remake what is classic, to reclaim and refine it as still valuable; or to create a new up-to-the-second personal statement of meaning from the immediate world we live in. Classic American traditions are skin-deep, devoid of history, and that can be a blessing or a curse. Here, in this exhibit, either one is okay.

Examples: Tom Coleman, a former Catholic priest, whittles angels from found, rough pieces of wood. Coleman “takes a broken branch and gives it new form — the spiritual equivalent of a new beginning.” He recovers classic concepts in modern, specifically personal media.

Michael Jaecks thinks that “devils and angels are pictures of our psychological and emotional lives, made in our own image,” which he does quite literally in this show. In the painting used here, an image of a pure holy form battling a weird ugliness as evil, draws from standard images, and portrays them in a way that is instantly accessible visually to contemporary eyes; Jaecks sometimes uses devils he has found in alcohol advertising. He’s an Outsiders regular; he’s been featured in the exhibits Homeless Awareness (at the Mall of America) and Taking Liberties (the GLBT exhibit).

One measure of a religion’s value, to me, is how they treat outsiders, people who are not a part of the system. Is the measure of the faith who they are inviting in, or who are they kicking out? At this gallery, the values are such that you get the best of both worlds: a wide range of viewpoints, and a superb collection of examples. If you aren’t careful, you might even have a religious experience.

For more information about the exhibit, call 612-338-3435, or go online to

Devil or Angel: 3rd Annual World Religion Show
Outsiders and Others Gallery
1010 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, MN. 55404

January 7th through February 4th
Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays: 12 am. To 5 pm

Thursdays: 12 am to 7:00 pm

Free and open to the public