Alyssa Lundgren, “Reenactment of Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ,” 2012, color photograph; and “Reenactment of Caravaggio’s Calling of St. Matthew,” 2012, color photography,
photo credits: Matthew Wilson
Dances with Religion
KCAI senior makes documentary of Academia, Faith, and reenactments of Art
Premieres May 6, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (April 3, 2012) – Acts of piety and blasphemy will be witnessed when Jesus Was A Moonwalker, a film by Kansas City Art Institute senior Alyssa Lundgren, premieres at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on May 6th, screening at 1:30, 2:15, and 3:00pm, ending with a Q&A with the filmmaker.
Synopsis of the film: While being distracted by the loud, explicit, train wreck of regurgitated culture that is postmodernism, have we missed something in the art world? After millennia of being dominated by religious imagery, the art world is now discussing everything but. Jesus Was A Moonwalker is a documentary featuring interviews with historians, critics, curators and artists about the qualms of including religious content in the contemporary art scene.
Alyssa Lundgren, a Digital Filmmaking and Art History double major at the Kansas City Art Institute, made the film as her senior thesis project after noticing something at home that’s rarely spoken about in art school. “The weekly bulletins at my church back home have always had some sort of art on the cover. Much of it seems to consist of old masters depicting religious scenes, but actually the majority of the art is contemporary. Noticing how I (an artist myself) had for years completely disregarded those contemporary pieces as being ‘serious art,’ I asked myself, ‘why do I react negatively to sincere religious art made in the contemporary scene? Does sincere religion have a place in contemporary art?’”
Professor of Art History at the University of Kansas David Cateforis states, “When modern art does intersect with religion it does so in ways that can be discomforting or challenging to someone who is not attuned to that kind of experimentation.”
“There is a tension in America between our Puritan Heritage and what visual art can do,” adds well-known art critic Eleanor Heartney, author of Postmodern Heretics: The Catholic Imagination in Contemporary Art.
JWAM, as it’s affectionately known, is a typical talking-head documentary in collision with the collaboration of many of Kansas City's performers, dancers, and models who re-create several works of art known for their sensationalized religious content. Including Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, and Chris Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary, as well as old master works like Caravaggio’s Calling of Saint Matthew.
Lundgren defends these works. “To many the art world in the United States seems anti-religious, or specifically anti-Judeo-Christian, but that’s not necessarily true. Controversial works of art seen as anti-religious, like Piss Christ, reveal some of the more concerning issues here involving religion. Many of these misunderstood and labeled ‘offensive’ works of art are seen that way because of manipulation of religious belief for political ends. Take the many National Endowment for the Arts controversies as prime examples.”
A culmination of a year’s work, 22 interviews, and over 30 hours of footage, JWAM is not only a 40 minute documentary short, but an online video series named Vitamin JWAM. A bi-weekly “dose”, these 2-5 minute videos share publicly all of the discussions and tangents that you wouldn't get to see in the final film, including topics like “When did Jesus become white?” with KU Professor of Religious Studies, Paul Mirecki.
Lundgren concludes, “Thinking about emotional events like September 11th and seeing how belief is being used right now in the GOP campaigns, the presence and political use of religion is something we need to be aware of. JWAM is an effort to get members of the art community, as well as outsiders, to have a dialogue about religion, to keep sharp, and keep working through these offenses and differences. Art is a great place for this kind of discourse.”
Interviews in the film include Eleanor Heartney (author, art critic); David Cateforis (Professor of Art History, University of Kansas); Saralyn Reece Hardy (Director, Spencer Museum of Art); Julian Zugazagoitia (CEO, Director, Nelson-Atkins); Leesa Fanning (Curator, Nelson-Atkins); Rev’d Todd Bruce (St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City); Raechell Smith (Director, H&R Block Artspace); and with local artists Susan White, Misha Kligman, Dylan Mortimer, and David Ford.
Who: Art world and general audiences alike are encouraged to attend, free admission
What: Premiere of Alyssa Lundgren’s senior thesis film, Jesus Was A Moonwalker
Where: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak Street, Kansas City, Mo 64111, Atkins Auditorium
When: May 6th, screenings at 1:30, 2:15, and 3:00pm, ending with a Q&A with the filmmaker
Event is open to the media. For more information, visit jesuswasamoonwalker.blogspot.com
To view “doses” of Vitamin JWAM on YouTube, visit http://www.youtube.com/user/VitaminJWAM
About the filmmaker
Alyssa Lundgren, originally from rural Iowa, is a filmmaker and fine artist earning her BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute. She explores socio-political issues not only in documentary form, but also short narrative films, and installation work. Her work has received an Award of Achievement at the 2010 IMPA Film Awards, and been screened at the 2011 Kansas City Filmfest. Her most recent work The Yellow Wallpaper was a selection of the 2011 Tacoma Film Festival and the Columbus International Film + Video Film Festival with recognition at the Chris Awards. Lundgren will be attending Iowa State University’s Graduate Program this fall studying in the Integrated Visual Arts Program.
About the Kansas City Art Institute
Celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2010, the Kansas City Art Institute is a private, independent four-year college of art and design awarding the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with majors in animation, art history, ceramics, digital filmmaking, digital media, fiber, graphic design, illustration, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and studio art with an emphasis on creative writing. The college also offers certificate programs in Community Arts and Service Learning and in Asian Studies for students enrolled in the B.F.A. program. Founded in 1885, KCAI is Kansas City’s oldest arts organization. For more information, visit KCAI on the Web at www.kcai.edu.