So today I did something that I never actually thought I’d do, perhaps proving yet again that art takes you strange places.

I went and bought a rosary.

My sheep statue became a nun. I couldn’t help it. I tried to make it a wizard, but it wanted to be a nun, and you can’t fight art. And the nun wanted a rosary. And it has to be a small rosary, because it’s a statue.

And so I gathered my religious tolerance around me like some kind of determinedly friendly body armor, and slunk into a Catholic bookstore. I am a sufficient non-believer that I wasn’t worried about a bolt of lightning, but I was still half-expecting some kind of Heathen Alarm to go off, klaxons ringing, red lights flashing, metal rolling down over the windows when I arrived. But of course not. There was a badmoment when my lungs tightened and I thought “OH GOD, THE BRIMSTONE COMETH!” but it was just some cheap incense they were burning far too much of, and more damaging to my allergies than my personal demons.

And so, skulking around the bookstore fingering saint medals, I realized early on that I would need to ask for help, and so I approached the determinedly upbeat proprietor and told him most of the truth–I was doing a statue of a nun, and I needed a small rosary for it.

It’s possible I may have neglected to mention the bit about the sheep.

And he was very helpful, and displayed that touching quality that I’ve found occasionally when people who never deal with artists much suddenly find themselves helping an artist in their particular field–this enthusiastic delight that they’re involved in some peripheral way in an act of creation, and you get this feeling that art is this sort of alien world to them which has suddenly intersected with their own, and they’re really eager to help out.

Needless to say, I felt like a complete heel.

I dunno. The thing is, I didn’t try to make this a nun-sheep, I didn’t wake up one morning and go “Ha ha! A searing invective on the herdlike qualities of Catholics!” or something. I like the trappings of Catholocism. They do stained glass like nobody’s business, and they’ve got a sense of paegentry that’s aesthetically amazing, and anyway, mocking Christianity these days is about as edgy as shooting fish in a barrel when the fish has already been filleted and plastic wrapped to little styrafoam trays. It’s been DONE. I wanted to make the sheep a wizard, for cryin’ out loud, I fought the nunnery tooth and nail, but there comes a point when you succumb. It wants to be a nun.

In the fight between the art and the artist, the art always wins.

And the other problem is that I have no malice here. Generally if I’m doing something aimed at some institution–I’ve done art because I was mad at religion, I know what it feels like–there’s this kind of…malice, for lack of a better term, or at least righteous indignation that keeps me driven on the piece, and the love that I always feel for my paintings while painting (if not always afterwards!) is mixed with a sort of bitterness. And I got none of that for Sheepy. I like Sheepy. And so here I am with this sheep nun that I KNOW is going to be read as an angry commentary on the nature of religion, and the sad bit is that the sheep just looked really good in black and white and it wanted to be a nun. If someone leaves a religiously outraged comment on a painting MEANT to evoke religious outrage, I get the warm glow of a job well done. If someone’s outraged by this, I’ll just feel the need to apologize.

Oh, well. I confess, some small bit of my guilt was mitigated by the fact that I wound up looking at “Baby’s First Rosary” which left me with my jaw dangling open, valiantly surpressing some kind of noise that would have been halfway between a laugh and a yelp. I eventually purchased a bracelet rosary, which is the perfect size for Sheepy. And–I guess it’s a she–looks good in it. Pictures to follow in a day or two.

And I suppose as long as the art is happy, what the artist feels is really kinda immaterial.

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