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used car salesman
Confessions of a Closet Christian

a personal encounter by
Wendell Tatley

a heroic story of
an artist and his
pursuit of excellence

Wrent from the womb of academe, I was lost, as most were. I needed something. I knew I wasn't a full time participant but I needed guidance from time to time, you know the higher power bit has compelling appeal. counseling alone wasn't enough.
Being a sculptor and somewhat handy, I set out to build something that would scratch the Itch. My tool handling experience helped me in my quest for personal empowerment. As artists we use archetypes, symbols, icons, mythology and allegory as tools in our work which can be communication as valuable as ambiguity and irony. Jousting on the noisy playing field of myth leaves one exhausted and confused in the rush to touch the rosette of the collective unconscious. I wanted something for me, something to give me strength to get through the day — I was believing too much too often and I knew it.
Convinced, I set about creating for myself a solution; first designing, then building a personal secret shrine — a prayer station. I wanted a simple design with few frills, a minimal grey box to sit quietly in the corner; nothing to draw attention to itself. I wanted my altar to melt away into the clutter of the studio. Just a another object sitting among the dust and shards of unfinished studio scrapple— another addition to the clutter of the work-place.
Being alone and having no accurate model to sculpt left me to stare in the mirror and puzzle. This became a particular burden when it came time to deliver the likeness of the son of God. Aside from the obvious reference to a personal mythology, I allowed the material and spiritual juices to flow. When complete my secret alter sat hidden from others, accessible to me alone — when the going gets tough he would be there for me do draw upon; his image broadcasting the strength I needed to get tougher.
Christ in a box

For several years I contented myself with my personal savior summoning His special power in time of need. He was always there waiting for me. As time went by my artistic style and character of craft changed; my technical ability had burgeoned, there was little I could not aspire to. Now armed with many and varied abilities, my tastes and style could draw upon many references both material and spiritual. I had left the Minimal Camp. I was free to explore the beyond, no need to retain my minimal Christ in his simple box. The repressed expression of minimalism (less is more) seemed to be a contradiction, and besides, art is vague; Kitsch was in vogue, and with this change in polarity I took the opportunity to realize new beginnings, the plain grey box which housed my deity was not enough. The rough box bore no reflection to popular fashion. My dedicated growth was hindered by the inadequacy of my Idol. Intuitively trusting to faith in the collective unconscious and synchronicity my path would follow the will of a higher power –– less austere, more decorative but I took caution. In the event of discovery, I couched my deity in attire that would disguise his true identity and secure the safety of my secret place of worship. More color was just what he needed. I fashioned hands with a crank for the lid — when I turned the handle the latch unclasped, the lid sprang back, the head and hands snapped smartly in place — instant invocation. For months I was in a state of bliss; I spent hours and hours in euphoric theologic contemplation before my colorful shrine.
The true character of my Christ-in-a-box for those weeks was ignored as I fell into the deeper meaning of the meaning of life. Then slowly I began to realize my Christ-in-a-box looked more like a used-car-salesman than the vendor-of-truth. Perhaps gold leaf over his coat and tie would help — the more I looked the more I saw the sham, the unauthentic character, the folly of my imposter. He had to go. I abandoned the notion of a retrofit; no amount of gold leaf would help. I decided a new approach would be more spiritually appealing.
The new approach:
I added to my new machine more mechanisms and compliments with secret compartments for paraphernalia; when complete the design would be perfect.
The design was perfect but the mechanical was bug ridden. Upon closing the lid, the fish fetish I had carved kept catching on the lid top; the head and gills would awkwardly protrude from the box leaving the top agape. The flaw was irritating and unfixable. Sometimes, when I turned the crank, activating my shrine, the lid would bolt into play, the head sprang forth, the hands would snap up and the fish would smack My Christ in the Kisser — devout worship was impossible. I had gone from a minimal, unfettered
place of worship to an unruly console. I must simplify.

My fourth attempt at perfection was more with a little bit less. A more serene Icon I could not imagine. Drawing upon my newly acquired Eastern persuasions, I referenced a more geometrically
harmonic Christ with a Buddha-like pose. Unlike #3, the mechanics were perfect, but I did have to add an ancillary knuckle to my fetish for the meditative finger gesture to smoothly spring from the robe-like-box. The reference to christ was unmistakable, unlike the ambiguity of #2.
Christ with flopping fish
After only three weeks of constant worship, #4 my silk purse began to degrade at an alarming rate. The extra knuckles began to wear on me. His hands began to chafe the beautiful enameled finish of his robe-like-box: The inauthentic modification was not in the image of the maker. This became a bother while steeped deep in meditation. How could I do such a thing to the Son of God: I was a more authentic likeness to the Grand Master than this Jesus. Messiah #4 had become Pariah#4 — a sow's ear.
I couldn't mothball my latest Christ-in-a-Box in favor of a older model. New hands with proper digits would not fit in the sleeve slots of #4's robe-like-box. With this failure I became frantic determined to render my vision properly. As weeks went by with nothing but false and failing Idols to worship, my resolve increased to obsession.
#5 would be it. I would gather all my creative vitality and make the last word in covert portable worship centers. I was now
at the pinnacle of my artistic ability. I summoned the Holy Spirit to be enlisted in an even deeper, more profound rapture station — I
would press to the sublime.
#5 would have to be my last theologic sculpture project as the studio was becoming cramped, the colorful boxes, too large to hide were now a hindrance to my normal work; they were becoming the subject of increasing curiosity by visitors and friends. Some friends were Nihilists, Agnostics, and Atheists — they would find unending pleasure in the discovery of my obsession. I would become the brunt of unceasing satire.
"Oh fuck the Blues tonight, let's go over to Wendell's and knock out a few prayers." The cynicism would be unending.
#5 lived up to my expectations: modifications to the hands allowed for the placement of articles when in use but removed before closure; paraphernalia could be safely stored in secret compartments. I had learned from the Flopping Fish Disaster.
Christ in a box

Shrine #5 worked flawlessly. Just the right number of knuckles, no tacky shark-skin-suits, flopping fish, or minimal display — my work was complete. I prayed and meditated by turn until one day, quite by chance, I began to see what I had done.
Early in the evening I had positioned my portable prayer station. Lit the candles, turned up the space music and turned the crank; Hydraulically, my Christ-Figure levitated; momentarily his hands elevated themselves to position; a tiny gold colored light from inside fired his face with intense religious appeal.
I knelt. I could feel my heart pace slower and slower. I positioned religious articles in his hands, feeling his power. With practiced incantations I began to ease myself into that zone of suspended being, my posture, as before, erect but relaxed, my hands on bended knee — music summoning me off the face of this Earth. My head filled with a slight pressure, further reverberating the already echoing space music. My focus, heavy lidded, dropped through atmospheres of energy. An aura surrounded my being — ADRIFT . . .
Cradled in deepest thought: I wavered in cushioned isolation suspended within the deeper self — unaware awareness.

A CRACK in my ears then boiling soup down my spine, convulsive pain — a bolt to consciousness, then a hot flush — anguish.
I saw for the first time the evil in my creation.
In my own image, in my rush to scratch that spiritual itch, I had created The Harlequin Christ!

To this day I don’t know if my prayers and meditations are channeling to the proper power, but I just do it and it feels good. Looking to that brighter day, I have learned to accept those things I can not change. I carry on today hoarding precious materials for the ultimate project, my Unified Personal Prayer Station.

Christian Confessions
Confessions of a closet christian





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