Thursday, February 16, 2012

Servant of the Dance

Martin Luther King holds up his booking number. The bars of a cell in Birmingham jail are visible behind him—except where the nimbus blocks them out. The mug shot is an icon; the icon a mug shot.

A naked man sits cross-legged on the floor of a cave, beating a drum, flanked by Neolithic pictograms on the wall behind him. His moustache and tightly curled black hair suit him to a dance floor ca. 1980; the enormous horns protruding from his forehead do not. Nailholes are visible in his hands and feet. He is Lord of the Dance: the Christ transcending time, at once archaic Horned God and Castro Clone.

Two men embrace in Roman military garb, staring out toward the viewer with serious attitude, despite their lavender cloaks: the lovers Sergius and Bacchus, martyred in the fourth century in the hope of being reunited in heaven; another pair of early Christians in the Roman army, Polyeuct and Nearch, cling to one another more tenderly.

Harvey Milk holds a candle in darkness, and is also accorded the visual trappings of a saint’s veneration—as are Rumi, Mohandas Ghandi, and Albert Einstein.

These and dozens more images are the work of Robert Lentz, OFM (Order of Friars Minor, a.k.a. the Franciscans). The grandson of Russian immigrants to Colorado and reared in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Lentz trained as a painter of icons in the late 1970’s. Since then, his art has celebrated the presence of the Holy both within and far beyond the Christian tradition, among the poor and oppressed, among the socially despised and culturally marginalized, among the visionary and subversive.

Above left, Robert Lentz’s icons of Martin Luther King, Lord of the Dance, Polyeuct and Nearch, and Harvey Milk, all courtesy of the distributor of Lentz’s images,Trinity Stores,

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