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Stuart I. Frolick

Stuart I. Frolick

Born and raised in New York, Stuart Frolick earned a degree in philosophy from Ithaca College. Since 1976, He has written and edited publications for Champion International Corporation, ArtCenter College of Design, Graphis magazine, CalArts, and Black & White magazine. His drawings, collages, and photographs have appeared in Idea magazine, Details, American Illustration 14, and Black & White and Color. Frolick’s studio practice began with photography in the late 1960s, and has included gestural, abstract drawing and collage for the past 40 years. Christ in the Suburbs was inspired by his reading about the historical Jewish Jesus, and his love of Renaissance art. Frolick lives in Granada Hills, California with his wife, three children, and two dogs.

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Christ in the Suburbs | A Jewish Artist Looks at Jesus

If there is an organizing principle for this work, it is that many Christians do not consider Jesus as Jewish, and most Jews, perhaps especially, those of Eastern European descent, would, for obvious reasons, rather not consider Jesus at all. The story of Jesus represents a flash point in Jewish history, and biblical scholars continue to make their cases of how, where, and why his teaching was consistent with, or divergent from, the Judaic orthodoxy of his time. Unlike an idea that informs or guides creative production, my organizing principle is a retrofit that emerged only after this series of images was complete. While producing the work I had no theological agenda; I was engaged only in image-making. The series of narratives was inspired by painting and sculpture of many art historical periods: chief among them, the European Renaissance, Gustave Doré, the collages of Max Ernst and Richard Hamilton– and of course, by Georges Rouault’s painting, Christ in the Suburbs (1920.)

Visual images of Jesus have not changed much since the Renaissance. It is a great paradox that while no description of his actual physical appearance exists, the face and figure of Jesus are the most readily identified in the history of Western art. Humor explains some of the collages here; while others echo the solemnity of gospel narratives. In none, however, was there an intention to mock or ridicule what true believers hold sacred. As Christopher Isherwood wrote in The World in Evening, “You can’t camp about something you don’t take seriously. You’re not making fun of it; you’re making fun out of it. You’re expressing what is basically serious to you in terms of fun and artifice…”

Is art about Jesus kosher in 2020? In his book, Religion for Atheists, Dr. Alain de Botton writes, “We depend on artists to orchestrate moments of compassion to excite our sympathies on a regular basis; to create artificial conditions under which we can experience, in relation to the figures we see in works of art, some of what we might one day feel towards flesh-and-blood people in our own lives.” I hope that my collage work is considered in that spirit. Thanks to Jody Baral and Mount St. Mary’s University Gallery for exhibiting my work.

 –Stuart Frolick
September, 2020

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